During the ongoing investigation of the San Bernardino shooting that occurred on December 2, 2015, the FBI has been attempting to unlock an iPhone from Syed Farook, one of the shooters, because officials believe it could reveal pertinent information about the time leading up to the shooting as well as the shooting itself last year which left 14 people dead.
In light of the recent San Bernardino iPhone controversy where the government is demanding that Apple develops a new software to unlock one of the shooters’ phone, many are saying “Apple, tear down that wall!” The wall of extra security measures that is.
However, as easy as it is to think Apple is in the wrong, it is important to understand that if Apple developed the additional software, every iPhone in the world could potentially be at risk for being hacked.
Six weeks before the shooting took place, Farook backed up his iPhone for the last time to the cloud and officials have been able to access the information that was backed up. However, officials are unable to access any information that was stored on the phone but not backed up to the cloud. Officials believe that accessing information on the locked phone could reveal important information about the premeditation of the tragedy, which could help the ongoing investigation.
Originally, Apple suggested connecting Farook’s phone to wifi so it would automatically back up the information to the cloud, but because of a mistake made early on by one of the San Bernardino police officials working with the FBI, they are unable to do so.
Around 24 hours after gaining possession of the iPhone, the FBI requested the phone’s iCloud password be reset in an attempt to gain information on the locked phone, making it impossible to retrieve the stored data.
Now, in order to get into Farook’s phone, the government has requested that Apple develop a new type of software that can skirt security measures.
This type of software that can get around all the security measures put in place does not yet exist. Something like this has no precedent. This is the first time Apple has ever refused to comply with the FBI’s request. Up to this point, Apple has been compliant with the government, working with it as much as they can. However, the compliance has ended now that Apple refuses to develop the software.
While a Pew poll found that 51 percent of Americans believe Apple should assist the FBI even further, it is important that Apple stand firm and refuse to let the wall of security measures fall.
It is argued that software like this would only be used in this case and would be secured, but Apple CEO Tim Cook believes software like this is just too dangerous to create.
Backdoor software like this that can override security measures of the current operating system has been compared to a master key. It would include special features allowing one to “by-pass or disable the auto-erase function, remove the artificial delays between guess attempts, and make it possible to automatically make those guesses via wifi,” according to Fortune magazine.
In other words, software like this would be able to potentially unlock any iPhone and access the data stored on it. If created, the software has the potential to be leaked, and if that were the case, the potential privacy risks would be astronomical.
Furthermore, if an action like this becomes a precedent, in the future, the government could extend its control to force companies to develop surveillance software that could be used to access messages, records, financial information, track your location or access other apps on your phone, all without you knowing it.
By granting access to one phone, you could unintentionally be granting access to every other phone. In the hands of the wrong person, technology like this could put others in harm’s way and should never be developed, especially when the entire ordeal could have been avoided.