Apple hires ex-Signal developer as battle with FBI heats up

The former iOS developer of Signal, a popular open source encrypted messaging app,  has joined Apple as an intern on the CoreOS team.  

Frederic Jacobs was the lead developer for Signal on Apple’s mobile platform, iOS. Signal is widely regarded as one of the most secure messaging applications, having been heralded by the academic cryptography community for its clean and open source code, as well as by high-profile privacy advocates like NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Messages on Signal are encrypted “end to end,” meaning they can only be read by the sender and the intended recipient. Apple’s iMessage is also end-to-end encrypted, but it’s not open source. 

This pickup comes as Apple is currently fighting a court order asking the company to create a specialized version of its mobile operating system that would bypass security measures on the phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. If Apple is compelled to create the specialized version of iOS, the FBI may be able to “brute force” the passcode on Farook’s phone.

In a letter to customers following the court order, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the government has asked Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone, which would degrade the privacy and security of all iPhone users.

Signal is created by Open Whisper Systems, which was founded by Moxie Marlinspike, the former head of product security at Twitter and an encryption expert.

Jacobs declined to comment. 

Illustration via Max Fleishman

William Turton

William Turton

Once named one of Forbes’ 20 Under 20 and hired as a staff writer for the Daily Dot when he was still a senior in high school, William Turton is a rising tech reporter focusing on information security, hacking culture, and politics. Since leaving the Daily Dot in April 2016, his work has appeared on Gizmodo, the Outline, and Vice News Tonight on HBO.