Google’s chief executive sided with rival Apple on Wednesday in its battle with a judge who ordered it to help the FBI access information on the encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
Sundar Pichai, head of the search titan, directed followers to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s open letter Tuesday night arguing that helping the FBI try to get into the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook would sabotage the security of “tens of millions of American citizens.”
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, gunned down 14 people at a social services agency Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, California, before dying in a shootout with police. FBI Director James Comey said last week that investigators still haven’t been able to get at the information on Farook’s iPhone 5c.
Not even Apple can decrypt an encrypted iPhone, according to the company. One of the major security advantages of Apple’s encryption is that the key needed to unlock the protected data is fused into the phone — and only on the phone, meaning not even Apple knows what it is.
What investigators are trying to do is figure out the Farook’s password — but they fear that his phone has a common feature that wipes the data completely after a certain number of failed password entries. The judge’s order directs Apple to disable that feature, which would allow the FBI to try potentially millions of computer-generated passwords in hope of finding the right one.
In a series of tweets Wednesday evening, Pichai argued that even that would essentially put tech companies in the position of hacking their own customers:
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made this statement on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decision not to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of a dead terrorist who killed 14 Americans in San Bernardino, California.
Our nation is at war and this iPhone was used to kill Americans. We need to protect our homeland, not terrorists. To Tim Cook and Apple, cooperate with the FBI.