02/24/2016 01:07 pm ET Updated Feb 23, 2017

The Day Tim Cook Forgot His Password

It was kept hush-hush but several months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook lay on an emergency room gurney, holding a compress to his head. The lump on his temple bore a stark reminder of that unfortunate treadmill mishap. A physician glanced at Cook's chart before offering a slight smile.

"You got very lucky, Mr. Cook," he said. "No sign of a concussion or any internal bleeding. We'll stitch you up and then you're free to go."

"Any potential side effects?" Cook asked.

The doctor paused. "You may experience some selective memory loss," he said. "By that I mean random bits of information may elude you for a few days. I wouldn't worry about it. By the way, can you call someone to drive you home?"

Cook reached for his ever present iPhone. And froze.

"Something wrong sir?" the doctor asked.

"It's just, uh, I can't remember my password."

'Who else knows it?" the doctor asked. "Maybe they could help."

"Nobody else knows it." Cook said. That's the first rule of security. Never share your password with anyone. And I haven't."

"Maybe we can guess it together," the doctor said. "How about J-O-B-S?"

Cook typed. "Incorrect."


"That's not it either." Beads of sweat were forming on Cook's brow, melting the ice pack's contents. By now a team of doctors, nurses and orderlies, alerted to the situation's gravity, had gathered around Cook, offering suggestions.

"Android sucks?"

"It's gotta be four characters. "

"Sorry. I don't own an iPhone."


"Can you ask Siri?"

"No. I mean, I don't think so. No, definitely not."

More combinations were suggested as nearby patients lay moaning with various maladies. Cook was nearly in tears.

"That's nine failed attempts," he wailed. "One more and everything on my phone gets erased."

"Don't you back everything up to iCloud?" a nurse asked. "You should look into it sir. I get 50 GB of storage for only 99 cents a month. That's more than 10,000 photos!"

"I'm the CEO, Miss. I'm aware of iCloud," Cook said. "It's just, I can't remember when I performed my last backup."

"Selective memory loss," the doctor said.

"But I do remember jotting down notes about a new innovation for the Apple Car. And I had a great idea about using renewable energy to run our data centers. At least I think I did. It's in the phone. I'm sure of it."

"Why are you so upset, sir?" a nurse asked. "Can't somebody in your office just hack your phone?"

"Excuse me?"

"Break into the phone. Surely your engineers can do that."

"We'd have to write new software and essentially create a back door into the phone," Cook said. "I'd never consent to that anyway. We've built encryption technology into every iPhone to ensure that our users' data is safe. Now you're suggesting we weaken that very technology? I find that scenario chilling. Don't you?"

"I'm not the one who's four keystrokes away from losing everything," the nurse said. "Besides, sir, it's just one time. You don't have to tell anyone that you've written new software."

"Yeah, we'd never tell," another doctor said. "What happens in the ER, stays in the ER."

"You people are all missing the point," Cook said. "If that decryption method gets into the wrong hands, it could be devastating. Would you want me to see what's on your phone whenever I felt like it?"

"Be my guest," the nurse said. "Mine's mostly loaded with cat photos. Want to see a video of my two Siamese cats playing with one of my hair twistees? It's adorable."

"What about your physical location? Your health information? The credit card my company makes you store on the phone so you can buy apps, music and more Candy Crush levels? Nobody, not even the government, should have the right to access that."

Cook turned back to his phone and typed one more combination. His shoulders sagged.

"It's gone. Everything's gone. All my ideas, all my memos. All my Taylor Swift songs. Gone. Because the iPhone is hack proof."

"I'm sorry sir," the attending physician said. "But may I suggest the next iPhone contain some way to get into your phone in case this happens again?"

"You're right," Cook said. "While not letting the government compromise our data, we at Apple need an improved method of cracking a lost password. And I think I have it."

"What is it?"

"Instead of 10 tries, our new phone will have 20."

"Brilliant, sir!"