To explain the current court fight between Apple and the FBI requires we go back to whistle blowing of Edward Snowden.
Snowden revealed secret court orders compelling Verizon and others to provide bulk data on phone call times and locations of phones. The NSA also collected marketing information and used brute force attacks to get into computer systems. Many phone companies who also sold phones lost their customers’ faith in their privacy.
Apple, who does not have a cell network, decided to enable encryption on iOS 8 that only stores the key on the phone itself, making Apple unable to unlock a phone without the password. However, it is possible to decrypt the backup file stored on an Apple iCloud account with the proper legal authorization.
Here’s the problem. The San Bernardino terrorists stopped backing up their phones weeks before the attack. When the FBI first got the phone, Apple suggested tricking the phone into backing up using a trusted (already used) wifi network. For whatever technical reasons, this was not done or cannot be done now to get the most recent data.
It appears that Apple is now being told to side load a customized Operating System that does not respect the phone’s password. Doing this would show hackers that it could be done, even if the actual OS is not shared. Apple is fighting the court order, probably so that they can argue their policy in the future if the administration chooses to use some secret FISA court to make the request next time.
This is what happens when the Obama administration decides to drag a net for all Americans’ information.