It seems that the iPhone involved in the San Bernardino shooting is not the only Apple device that the government wants the Cupertino brand to unlock, as the authorities are also demanding the company to unlock about 12 other iPhones, according to a recently surfaced court document.
The authorities have been looking into getting Apple to help them crack the code in a similar way as with the San Bernardino incident. Considering how a couple of those devices from other cases are running on an older iOS version, the company could have done so, but it refused because it was "being forced to become an agent of law enforcement."
In the same vein, they have been using the All Writs Act, that dates back to 1789 to get the company to comply. The law apparently has been used for about 11 times now since September. It states that courts "may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law."
The latest legal case with the government demanding Apple to unlock an iPhone concerned a request to develop a tool that can bypass the iPhone's security measures. Investigators require the aid of the company because the iPhone would automatically delete any data after 10 incorrect passcode attempts. The device is also programmed to set a delay between each try and prevent the use of a supercomputer of sorts to crack it.
Apple denies the authorities' demand because it would set a "dangerous precedent" or a backdoor that cybercriminals can potentially abuse to compromise iPhone users' privacy and information. Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that a tool like that could easily spread and fall into the wrong hands, noting that "there is no way to guarantee such control."
Despite Cook's statement, FBI Director James Comey responds by making it clear that it will only be used on one iPhone.
"We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn't. But we can't look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don't follow this lead," Comey said.
Cook had already outlined the consequences when such a tool materializes in an open letter before Comey's response.
"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks - from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable," Cook said.
The other previous cases were of the same nature, but some of them did not necessitate a backdoor to extract data from the iPhones in question.
Apple's lawyer Marc Zwillinger listed all the requests that the company has received under the 227-year-old All Writs Act.
The document indicates that Apple did not receive a copy of the underlying motion that it requested in one of the cases, and in another, the agent is seeking a new warrant, but the company did not receive that either.
It should also be noted that Apple agreed to cooperate with the FBI regarding the iPhone involved in the San Bernardino case, where the solution did not need any kind of backdoor or security breaking. However, that didn't pan out, as the device had its passcode changed while in the hands of the government in less than 24 hours.
Regardless of the complications, an outcome will soon turn up, but it appears that it won't be an easy course of action to reach a conclusion.