WIRED's Brian Barrett takes a closer look at an unprecedented order a California court issued to Apple last night, prompting CEO Tim Cook to post an impassioned public notice of protest to its customers.

As part of the ongoing investigation of last year's tragic attack in San Bernardino, Calif., Magistrate Sheri Pym in the U.S. District Court of Central California ordered Apple to provide the FBI with a specialized software that would override the function that automatically deletes data on an iPhone after ten failed password attempts. Ultimately, this would allow officials to guess the password until they find a match—without triggering a mechanism that erases the key that decrypts the phone's data.

"In the wrong hands, this software—which does not exist today—would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession. The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor, ” said Cook in the letter.

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