What It Means for Apple if Feds Find Way To Crack Shooter’s iPhone

In its monthlong fight with the Department of Justice over digital privacy, Apple has insisted it would under no circumstances force its engineers to undermine the company's security measures.

So when federal prosecutors announced Monday that an outside party had come forward with a technique that might unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook without Apple's cooperation, the tech giant could have reason to view it as a major victory -- and a major risk.

What would be worse for a company that has insisted privacy is core to its identity -- and whose marquee device is among the safest on the market? Caving to government pressure and writing its own decryption software, or conceding its phones are not as secure as some believed.

Apple, civil liberty groups and digital privacy advocates say the first option would be far more damaging.

Doing so would set a precedent for the government to compel any tech company to thwart its own security measures -- a dangerous development, they say, in a world where people's lives are largely lived on digital devices.

"We built the iPhone for you, our customers," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said Monday as he unveiled the company's newest iPhone.

"We need to decide, as a nation, how much power the government should have over our data and our privacy," he added

But, if the government's new lead is successful, customers will need to decide whether they'll keep buying a product that, though advertised as virtually airtight, could be hackable. Apple's showdown with the FBI provides no bigger stage to put that consumer loyalty to a test.

"Whenever people tell me something is unhackable, I think about how the Titanic was unsinkable," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"Apple should...

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