The ongoing fight between the government and technological companies has blown up with the recent FBI demand that Apple create a software to hack into a dead criminal’s iPhone.
Apple denied the command and made the right decision in doing so. The repercussions could be too big if they help the FBI crack the phone’s code.
The iPhone belonged to Syed Farook, one of two who lead the San Bernardino shooting in December. Now in custody of the government, the phone needs only to be unlocked to view its contents.
The FBI has tried to create their own backdoor technology, but after political objections, their efforts were stopped. They have tried guessing the phone’s passcode, but Apple’s disable delays and disable self-destruction features have made it difficult for them to test all combinations without crashing the phone.
This is why the government needs Apple’s help. They simply need the company to make it easier for them to get past the four-digit passcode by disabling security features. But Apple has refused because doing so would endanger the safety and privacy of all iPhone users.
“Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution,” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in a letter to Apple customers. “But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.”
The government claims they are only asking for a version of the software specific to Farook’s phone. But Cook explains that the creation of this one software could be modified and used on any iPhone.
Hacking the iPhone could be beneficial for the government in that it would allow them to easily spy on persons of interest, knowing spending habits, passwords, where they’ve been and where they’re going. In this case, the information found on Farook’s phone could lead authorities to other terrorists.
What’s bad is that if this software were to fall into the wrong hands, anyone with an iPhone could be a victim. Credit card numbers, health information and something as simple as your Wi-Fi password could be exposed and used without your knowledge.
“In today’s digital world, the ‘key’ to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it,” Cook said. “Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.”
The government has tried using the centuries-old All Writs of 1789 Act, which states that federal judges can request orders for people to do things within the limits of the law, in its defense. Courts only use writs in extraordinary circumstances, though they were once pretty common.
This situation could qualify as extraordinary, but the pros of Apple creating this “special” software don’t outweigh the risks. There are just too many instances where this could get out of control. People expect privacy, and that’s what they should get.
If the federal court rules in favor of the government and forces Apple to cooperate, this could set a dangerous precedent that would instill fear into you as a cell phone user. And if the government gets their way once, who’s to say they won’t take advantage?