Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSome Apple engineers say they'd rather quit than help the government break security measures that Apple has placed on iPhones and iPads.
Inside Apple, engineers have already discussed who would and who wouldn't build "GovtOS," the software the FBI has gone to court to compel the company to create, according to the New York Times, citing current and former employees.
Some employees would apparently resist any demands to create the software, the report says.
That could pose a problem, given that the software the government wants to create would be so complex that it would require workers with very specific skills.
From the report:
But Apple employees say they already have a good idea who those employees would be.
They include an engineer who developed software for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. That engineer previously worked at an aerospace company. Another is a senior quality-assurance engineer who is described as an expert “bug catcher” with experience testing Apple products all the way back to the iPod. A third likely employee specializes in security architecture for the operating systems powering the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV.
Apple previously said that GovtOS would require between 6 and 10 engineers working for up to a month.
This isn't the first time the possibility has been raised that certain Apple employees would quit before helping the FBI.
The Guardian reported last month that Apple security engineers would be ashamed to break their own encryption, and that engineers that specialize in the type of cryptography that this issue involves are frequently more motivated by values than money.
The FBI wants Apple to help it extract data from an iPhone that San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook was assigned by his government job. Given that the case is currently working its way through the courts, the possibility that Apple might have to build software that CEO Tim Cook called the "software equivalent of cancer" is no longer hypothetical, although it's probably years away.
But any cryptography engineers who would quit would likely have no trouble finding a new high-paying job, considering that security skills are in-demand.