Why Apple’s Rift With The US Government Is Important

Why Apple’s Rift With The US Government Is Important

The San Bernadino shooting was an act of terrorism that claimed quite a lot of lives but the US Governement’s request to Apple can best be described as unreasonable. This made the news yesterday and Apple’s response is justified.

The mass shooting in San Bernadino last December left 14 people dead and 22 injured. It wasn’t just a mass shooting, there was also an attempted bombing. The attackers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were a married couple who eventually got killed in a shootout with the police. One of the attacker’s phone is an iPhone 5c currently with the FBI.

To access more information that could help the investigation, the phone needs to be unlocked and decrypted but Apple isn’t helping. Here’s why: What the US government is asking for will not only compromise the security of that one iPhone 5c, but all iPhones.

The court order isn’t just asking Apple to decrypt that one phone, the US Governemt wants to create Apple to modify its software in a way that a backdoor can be created which the FBI will use to access any iPhone at will. According to Tim Cook in a letter posted on Apple’s website:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

He continued:

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

One might argue that this is just for just one phone but in the wrong hands, the security of the iPhone in which Apple prides itself can become compromised.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Apple is challenging the court order and this might turn into a lengthy court battle. In a series of Tweet, Google CEO Sundar Pinchai seems to support Apple. He said that this can be consequential.

His response can best be described as lukewarm on such an important matter. Asking Apple to unlock just one phone in the course of investigation is reasonable but creating an version of iOS firmware that can be hacked is a request that calls for concern.
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