Bill Gates backs FBI fight against Apple to hack San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world and the most influential figure in the tech industry, dismissed Tim Cook's claims that opening the phone would open a slippery slope to a tsunami of security concerns

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  • Apple is resisting the FBI's request for help to hack an iPhone
  • The locked iPhone 5C belongs to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook 
  • Despite a court order and request from James Comey, Cook says no
  • But now Bill Gates has lent his influential support to the government and dismissed Tim Cook's fears that it would pose a larger security problem
  • Gates's words come after relatives of the victims supported the FBI   
  • Meanwhile Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said he 'sympathizes' with Cook 

Bill Gates has said he supports the US government's bid to get Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone.

Gates, the richest man in the world and the most influential figure in the tech industry, dismissed Tim Cook's claims that opening the phone would open a slippery slope to a tsunami of security concerns.

'This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,' Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday.

His words will deal a withering blow to Apple's stubborn stance.

Apple said the hack would be akin to 'a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks - from restaurants and banks to stores and homes'. Pictured: Apple CEO Tim Cook

WHO WANTS TO HACK THE PHONE

Government

Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered Apple to provide 'reasonable technical assistance' to investigators seeking to unlock the data on the iPhone 5C

Bill Gates

'This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,' Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday 

Relatives of victims 

Robert Velasco, father of 27-year-old Yvette Velasco who was shot dead in the massacre, released a statement on Monday saying the cellphone could contain critical information and it is potentially a matter of national security

WHO WANTS TO LEAVE IT LOCKED

Tim Cook, Apple Inc

Apple said disabling the phone's auto-erase function and helping investigators to submit passcode guesses electronically is akin to 'a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks - from restaurants and banks to stores and homes'

Apple has since urged the creation of a government panel on encryption to help resolve a standoff over national security and data privacy

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook 

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said he was 'pretty sympathetic' with Apple's chief executive Tim Cook in his stand-off with the US government over breaking into the iPhone of a mass shooter

It comes after the father of a woman killed in the San Bernardino terror attack added his name to an upcoming legal filing supporting the government's position. 

And although Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he was 'pretty sympathetic' with Tim Cook, Gates's words will be difficult to dismiss. 

Married shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malin shot dead fourteen people and seriously wounded 22 at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, on December 2. 

During the FBI's investigation, officers found an iPhone belonging to Farook which they believe could contain significant evidence of national security importance. 

Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered Apple to provide 'reasonable technical assistance' to investigators seeking to unlock the data on the iPhone 5C.

That assistance includes disabling the phone's auto-erase function, which activates after 10 consecutive unsuccessful passcode attempts, and helping investigators to submit passcode guesses electronically.

However, Apple said this is akin to 'a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks - from restaurants and banks to stores and homes.'  

In a desperate bid to win over Tim Cook, James Comey even penned an emotive letter posted on Law Fare last weekend, calling on the tech giant to see beyond the supposed implications of the hack and reflect on the 'context of this heart-breaking case'.

Comey wrote that the FBI 'doesn't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land' and that the matter is 'about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined'.

However, to date Apple has refused to budge - and even won some support from Facebook. 

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said he was 'pretty sympathetic' with Apple's chief executive Tim Cook in his stand-off with the US government over breaking into the iPhone of a mass shooter.

Clues to who Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik (pictured) communicated with, and potentially other extremists living in America, could be named on an iPhone 5c found in their car

   

Robert Velasco, father of 27-year-old Yvette Velasco (right), has agreed to be named in an upcoming legal filing supporting the government's position. He is pictured (left) at Yvette's funeral embracing her mother Marie

'I don't think that requiring back doors to encryption is either going to be an effective thing to increase security or is really the right thing to do,' Facebook's chief executive told delegates at the world's biggest mobile congress in Barcelona.

'We are pretty sympathetic to Tim and Apple, but at the same time we feel we have a really big responsibility running this big networking community to help prevent terrorism and different types of attacks,' he said.

Finally, on Monday relatives of victims began to lend their support to the government. 

Robert Velasco, father of 27-year-old Yvette Velasco, was the first to join the U.S. government's push against Apple Inc. to hack into the locked iPhone.

His support is significant as James Comey tries to take an emotional approach to win Apple over.

Slamming the tech firm, the Velasco family released a statement on Monday saying the cellphone could contain critical information and the issue is potentially a matter of national security.

According to Stephen Larson, a Los Angeles attorney involved in the case, several families of victims and other employees in the shootings are set to add their voice to the government's case in the next few days. 

 

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