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iPhone Hack Would Be "Software Equivalent Of Cancer," Tim Cook Says

The Apple CEO discussed the dangers of cracking an iPhone for the FBI in an interview with ABC News.

Posted on February 24, 2016, at 7:39 p.m. ET

Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company's decision to not create software that would unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook's iPhone in the harshest terms yet on Wednesday, telling ABC News that the hack would be the "software equivalent of cancer."

Last week, a federal judge ordered Apple to comply with the Department of Justice's request to help the FBI bypass Farook's phone encryption. But according to Cook and others, doing so would require Apple to write new code.

"We think it's bad news to write," Cook said in the interview. "We would never write it. We have never written it — and that is what is at stake here. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system."

The FBI needs Apple to override the lock because, according to experts, multiple failed password entries could result in investigators being permanently denied access to the phone's contents — or even erasing its data altogether.

Authorities have argued that unlocking the iPhone is a one-time request and a matter of national security. However, information security experts have accused the government of taking advantage of the San Bernardino shooting to create a precedent for tech industry capitulation on privacy matters.

"This case is not about one phone," Cook said. "This case is about the future."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.