Apple and the FBI appear to be headed to court. And why? That’s a good question.
Last week, a federal judge in California ordered Apple to help the FBI crack an iPhone that had been used by one of the suspects involved in the San Bernardino shootings. This would involve Apple creating a special version of its operating system in order to disable the automatic password lock-out.
Once installed on the phone, this “crippled version” of the iOS would allow the FBI to use brute-force password cracking techniques to break into the phone and access the data stored on it.
So what does the FBI think it will find? Clearly, evidence related to this high-profile terrorism case. But let’s be realistic here. The crisis is over, the suspects have been neutralized, and there is no credible threat from this particular phone.
So what is the FBI really after? A back door. In fact, this dispute is just one more battle in an ongoing struggle between the federal government and Silicon Valley.
Since the development of strong encryption, the Feds have sought to compel device manufactures, like Apple, to give them privileged access to encrypted data—a secret back door into the system. But Silicone Valley has persistently said no.
So this terrorism case is just a handy excuse for the FBI to force the issue. And Apple is right to resist. Designing backdoors into encrypted systems—whether done in advance or after the fact—is a dangerous precedent.
Doing so will compromise the privacy and security that all of us law-abiding citizens depend on.
I’m David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.