Tim Cook to FBI: “Nope.”
And he’s right to do so.
Fight me IRL for this one if you must. Since 9/11 we’re all paranoid about terrorists. Who makes it worse? The government, duh!
Now if you haven’t heard already, the FBI wants Apple to unlock the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone 5C. Sounds easy: simple unlock and see what the psychopath was thinking. Welp it’s a little complicated. They’re unsure whether or not the shooter has the phone wipe enabled if they entered the wrong password ten times. They want Apple to create a backdoor version of iOS so that they can open it by “brute force” with a password generator, but Tim Cook had some major issues with their request and is now openly fighting it (you can see his open letter to customers here.)
Here are some concerns:
- They have the NSA and themselves. You can hack into phone logs and files and emails, but you can’t hack into an iPhone?? Something smells fishy here. Out of the thousands of federal employees and brainpower both agencies have, not one can hack into an iPhone themselves. And even if they did, Apple would have to patch it up to ensure it doesn’t happen again. You have to make Apple do it so that way they don’t incriminate themselves if they tried to hack in and someone catches wind of the situation, akin to the Edward Snowden/NSA situation. It’s all fun and serious games until someone gets caught and places the blame on someone else, and Apple is not willing to be a scapegoat and lose the trust of millions of customers that use their phones everyday.
- They’re using something known as the All Writs Act of 1789. It’s applicable if there is no rule or law written for said situation, a business is involved, there’s an extraordinary circumstance that justifies the use, and if the compliance isn’t an unreasonable burden. *
- This can (and will be, lets be honest) applied to all phones. If Apple backs down and gives them the iOS backdoor version then Google will have to do the same for Android. The government will have access no doubt to both of these “Master OS”s for their use in cases. While they just want to unlock one phone, they will no doubt use it for all of their cases dealing with cellphone confiscation in the name of National Security. Somehow, the government will make it wildly available for all governments across the country to use for their own cases that can span anywhere from murder to a simple arrest. Hackers (not like they can’t do this already) will see it as a way to target people and expose personal information of others and cause mayhem across the board. Corrupt governments will take it a step further and will have control and access to every citizen’s phone.
Tim Cook is right, if someone creates this Master OS, there is no guarantee or control that this will be used for this specific case. It’s better that it’s not used or created at all. *
As a mobile tech enthusiast whose entire life rests in an iPhone, the possibility that this may happen is kind of scary. While I am a law abiding citizen with nothing to hide, I have already given up some freedoms as-is to ensure that our country is safe. There is so much one can give and at this rate they’re about to take away one of the last things someone can deem private: a cellphone. Why do you think we all have complicated passwords and now thumbprint locks? To keep what’s mine, mine and what’s yours, yours.
I believe in the saying “If you want something done, do it yourself.” If the government wants to unlock a cellphone and see what’s inside, go for it. They have resources. Just know that the consequences will result in improved security by that company and some backlash.
1st * — h/t The Daily Dot, link in asterisk.
2nd * — Apple’s Customer Letter, link in asterisk.