Apple normally complies with court orders but this time they are saying the government has gone too far.
They would have to create the software necessary to bypass the auto lock feature of the phone, which the FBI wants so they can try unlimited attempts to crack the actual encryption. If someone attempts and fails to unlock this feature ten times, it erases all the encrypted data. Apple says that if they do that, then the government could unlock any Apple phone any time they wanted to.
In a statement released early Wednesday, Cook said that such a move would undermine encryption by creating a backdoor that could potentially be used on other future devices.
"In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession," the statement said.
The order is aimed at removing what had become a barrier in the investigation of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in Riverside directed Apple on Tuesday to help the FBI get around the phone’s passcode protection and any auto-erase functions the device might employ.
“The government has been unable to complete the search because it cannot access the iPhone's encrypted content,” U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker wrote in a 40-page motion to the judge. “Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily.”
The health department gave the FBI consent to search the phone, according to the motion, but authorities have been unable to bypass the phone's passcode lock for fear its operating system would destroy all data on the phone after 10 failed attempts.
In its motion, the FBI said Apple should be able to turn off the device’s auto erase functions, allowing the government to submit “test passcodes” to the phone without the risk of destroying the data it seeks. The motion said that Apple routinely complies with law enforcement when presented with a search warrant or judicial order.
This battle has huge long term implications and the FBI is trying to strong arm Apple into giving them a back door to this technology which Apple can see would possibly destroy peoples privacy and the security of their data.
It wouldn't surprise me for one second if the FBI pulled out the old "National Security" card just to get what they want here.