Recently, the CEO of Apple posted a statement on the Apple website regarding the company’s stance on a government request to help access the iPhone used by the San Bernardino attackers. A judge has ordered Apple to create a new version of iOS for the FBI to use in order to brute force the passcode lock on the device. Currently, a brute force attempt to guess the password would require a person to manually enter every possible passcode combination. This already time-consuming process would be made even longer by the software’s time delay that is imposed after a number of incorrect passcode attempts. Apple has been asked to create new software for the device which would bypass this software delay, as well as allow passcodes to be input electronically by a computer.
“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.” – Tim Cook, CEO
While the government maintains that this is a necessary step in the prosecution of terrorists and for the benefit of national security, Apple argues that this action represents a clear overstep of the boundaries of privacy and provides too much power to the government to access any and all information that it would like. Privacy, encryption, and government have been hot topics in the nation recently, and I am incredibly glad to see a large industry leader such as Apple taking a strong stance as they have here.
This request represents an attempt by the US government to compel companies to deliberately circumvent privacy measures and make devices less secure for everyone who uses them. This case could set a dangerous precedent that allows the government to compel any tech company to break and weaken encryption in order to access any data that is deemed “necessary.” Furthermore, even if the specialized software to bypass the iOS passcode security measures is only meant to be used in this case, there is no way to guarantee that it won’t leak, and be used elsewhere. In today’s media-centric and smartphone-reliant society, having this type of “master key” available to anyone is too dangerous of an option. If it can be used by the “good guys” then you can be sure that the “bad guys” will be using it too.
With any luck, Apple will refuse to comply and appeal the order. I can easily see this case working its way up to the Supreme Court – and regardless of the outcome, it will most certainly be a high profile case, with an outcome
The US Government claims that encryption can hurt national security by limiting what information they have access to. They use this to argue that tech companies should work with the government to provide access and circumvent security if needed. But what they don’t consider is that weakening encryption isn’t just swinging a punch at the bad guys, it’s also sucker punching ourselves at the same time. Weakening encryption via backdoors like these hurts everyone.