“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.”
On February 16, 2016 Apple CEO, Tim Cook, released a letter to their customers about the United States government’s demand to essentially build a backdoor to their iPhone. Apple believes that this would threaten the privacy and security of their customers, with further implications in the wrong hands.
The San Bernardino Case
Apple received an order from a California court to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone by hacking. The iPhone belonged to one of the San Bernardino terrorists, a couple which took 14 lives last December. Apple has no sympathy for terrorists and has worked hard to help the FBI solve this tragic crime in an attempt for justice. Apple has taken great measures to comply with the government and provide all possible information such as complying with valid subpoenas and search warrants, making Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and offering ideas on investigations. However, the US government is now asking for something that Apple does not currently have, and believes is dangerous to create – a backdoor for the iPhone.
What is the government asking for?
“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. 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.”
This backdoor to the iPhone would create a custom version of iOS that would ease the FBI’s attempts at unlocking the iPhone by “brute force,” i.e., trying millions of passcode combinations using a special peripheral, without the risk of deleting the data on the device.
Apple believes in encryption
Smartphones are an important part of our lives. A majority of the population now has a smartphone and “we use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going”.
This information should be and needs to be protected from criminals, hackers, and terrorists who wish to use it without our permission for corrupt purposes. Customers expect and rely on companies such as Apple to provide protection of their personal information; thus, invoking the need for encryption. “Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.”
Why should we be concerned?
This order not only raises the issue of data security, but also personal privacy. It would expose customers to a greater risk of attack due to weakened encryption. In the wrong hands it could also compromise our security. It is also a question of privacy. “Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture his or her data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.” This backdoor could allow the government to invade our privacy, and in a country promising freedom, this order seems to impose further restrictions on those liberties.
Apple has opened the debate to cellphone users everywhere. Personally, I stand with Apple’s decision to fight the order due to the implications it would have on our security and our privacy.
The letter from Apple can be viewed here: http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/