If Apple does not obey the late court request to open the iPhone that belonged San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook, the US Department of Justice might be able to force the organization to share the source code of iOS—the operating system that keeps running on the iPhone and iPad—and the tech giant’s electronic signature with the FBI, according to a legal filing reported by The Guardian.

Farook was one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist assault in last December, which killed 14 people and harmed an extra 20. The FBI, as a part of its progressing investigation, has previously asked for Apple to build up an alternate version of iOS that would enable the agency to get to the substance of Farook’s encrypted iPhone. The request was made because Apple’s iOS software includes an auto-erase function that erases all content on a gadget after a number of unsuccessful passwords have been entered on a locked telephone, which has blocked the FBI’s efforts.

Apple has previously denied the agency’s request, arguing that it would set a dangerous point of reference for law enforcement offices to violate the privacy and security of its clients in the future.

The late legal filing by the Justice Department shows there is a considerably more threat risk to privacy than basically unlocking a single iPhone. If Apple were to provide the FBI with access to the iOS source code and its electronic signature, the agency would possibly be able to open any iPhone as it would see fit—without Apple’s help—by modifying the software itself. The agency would also be able to exploit undisclosed vulnerabilities in iOS or even masquerade as Apple while sending software to its planned targets.

The news of the late filing happened just a day after Apple executive Eddy Cue argued against efforts to give an escape clause in iOS to law enforcement offices in order to protect personal privacy and security. Apple’s continued stance on the matter should represent a triumph for security advocates.


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