Vance and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called a press conference to blast a decision by Apple not to help investigators hack into an encrypted iPhone used by Syed Farook, who killed 14 and injured 22 others in San Bernardino, Ca.
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, attacked his coworkers at a holiday party in the Los Angeles suburb on Dec. 2. Investigators believe Farook had become radicalized by Muslim extremists.
“This has become, ladies and gentlemen, the Wild West in technology,” Vance told the press at police headquarters. “Apple and Google are their own sheriffs.”
DA investigators now have 175 Apple devices connected to cases that they can’t access, Vance said.
“So that’s about 25 percent of the devices that have come into our unit are inaccessible because they are encrypted through iOS 8 or higher,” Vance said.
The DA added that access to cloud storage is also often impossible.
“If you’re a criminal and you know information is backed up automatically to the cloud you’re going to turn off the back-up device," he said.
Vance and Bratton also referenced a conversation they said was recorded between someone in Rikers Island and a buddy on the outside where they called the Apple encryption a “gift from God.”
“It’s not a gift from God,” Vance said. “It’s a gift from [Apple and Google] in Silicon Valley who collectively own 96.7 percent of the smart phone market.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s stance in a letter dated Feb. 16, posted on their website.
“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Cook said.
“We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.
Cook added that smartphones have become an “essential part of our lives” and that information stored on them “needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission.”
The CEO then said the FBI asked the company build an operating system they could install on Farook’s phone.
“Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor,” Cook said.
“And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”