I have no sympathy for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s refusal to co-opearate with the FBI in accessing the data on the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook.
You know, the guy responsible for murdering 14 Americans in San Bernardino in the name of ISIS.
Cook wrote a mealy mouthed letter to Apple customers. While deploring the San Bernardino attack, Cook nevertheless refuses to co-operate because hacking into the phone would create a master key to gain access to all iPhones:
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.
Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.
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. 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 suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.
To begin with, it wasn’t even Farook’s phone. It belonged to the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health which wants the info accessed. As such, Farook never had any expectation of privacy.
Cook’s argument is all the more disingenuous because on the one hand he argues that the FBI is asking Apple to make a master key and then on the other hand contends the technology the FBI is asking for doesn’t exist. Well, if Cook says Apple is being asked to create a master key but the technology to make that master key doesn’t exist then why can’t Apple make a simple house key? Is it really beyond Apple’s capacity to make a key that only works on a single device or only works for, say, a 24-hour period?
Cook had better hope and pray that whatever is on that phone doesn’t involve plans for another terror attack. Because if another terrorist attack is carried out because of information on that phone and all that stood in the way of people living and dying was Apple’s co-operation then Tim Cook will have blood on his hands.
UPDATE: Between 2008 & 2015, Apple hacked into at least 70 other smartphones. Why Cook is drawing a line in the sand to protect an Islamic terrorist is beyond me? Yet it demonstrates the indefensibility of his position.
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