The iPhone of dead San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook has been in the hands of the FBI for weeks now. So why hasn’t the intelligence been accessed and evaluated for the protection of Americans against possible future attacks and the prosecution of additional terrorist conspirators? Encryption? Not really. Ethics? Possibly. Public perception and future market share? Getting warmer!

On this past Tuesday (Feb. 16), a federal magistrate in California ordered Apple to develop a custom version of its IOS software that disables embedded security features and install it on Farook’s iPhone. On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook counterpunched in an open letter to Apple customers and the public, in which he described these actions as an “unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) asserted yesterday that Apple is more concerned with “a dead terrorist’s privacy over the security of the American people.” This issue is as simple as it is complicated, yet it presents a greater issue for Apple—which may be taking for granted the public’s naiveté on the differences between encryption and security.

The iPhone LTE (Long Term Evolution) protocol is a massive encrypted security protocol. In fact, at this point in time, even the NSA is unable to completely crack the code and listen to both sides of a conversation (metadata is a different topic that I wrote about a while ago). I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here, but it’s a 256-bit end-to-end user encryption with multiple layers.

Basically, it would require breaking a code that’s the equivalent of a trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion (give or take a trillion) characters long, or more than a lifetime for even the most sophisticated computer. That’s the encryption level ensuring privacy of the current and future editions of iPhones. The iPhone 5S and newer have added the same layer of security to the individual device’s unique identifier (UID), which is randomly assigned and Apple does not have or store those UIDs. So from this perspective, Mr. Cook is correct, and Apple does not have a magic wand or universal key to break this encryption.

What the FBI is asking for is help with breaking the security access code. Farook’s mobile device is/was an IPhone 5C. This point is vital as Apple does have the technical capability to comply with the court order. For those who have iPhones, we know that our information can be completely erased if we incorrectly attempt too many security password inputs.

Although the iPhone 5C is not as dynamic in its deletion process as the newer editions have (and future editions will have), they don’t want to take the chance. The iPhone 5C does not have a fingerprint sensor or secure enclave (an unrecorded key and mixing process within a cryptographic co-processor), and because of this, Apple could easily assist by running a program requiring a reset of the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) password.

Here are two thoughts that we are not hearing in the mainstream: