The Turkish government has asked Apple to assist with unlocking the phone of the assailant who gunned down a Russian ambassador this week.
The phone, a locked iPhone 4s, belonged to an off-duty Turkish police officer who shot and killed Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov in an Ankara art gallery on Dec. 19. The gunman, later identified as Mevlut Mert Altıntas, was later killed in a shoot-out with Turkish special forces, 9to5Mac reported.
The Russian government is reportedly sending a technical team to Turkey to try and unlock the phone — as local law enforcement attempts to break into the device have, so far, been unsuccessful, AppleInsider reported. Citing the company’s previous stances on similar cases, most security analysts and media outlets expect Cupertino to refuse to participate.
Both Russia and Turkey described the assassination as an attempt to further complicate the countries’ relationship in the midst of contrasting opinions over the Syrian Civil War. Local law enforcement believe the phone might contain content that could tie the shooter to international terrorist groups, Fast Company reported.
The request echoes a similar case earlier this year, in which Apple famously refused to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI, with the help of a gray-hat hacker, was able to eventually unlock the phone — but found nothing of interest to the case.
Cupertino has taken a strong stance on encryption and consumer privacy rights in recent years, and have famously refused to assist authorities in unlocking encrypted Apple devices. In response to the FBI’s request to create a “master key” backdoor, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the implications of it “chilling,” according to Fortune. Such a key could potentially fall into the wrong hands and only endanger the security and privacy of Apple customers, Cook added.
“We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack,” Cook said in a letter. “Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data.”