By Colin Gulling
The tech giant Apple and the Federal Government of the United States are entangled in a complicated legal battle that made its way to the Supreme Court. This is no simple case, and emotions are running high on both sides of the argument.
This legal entanglement arose from the ashes of the recent San Bernardino Terrorist shooting, in which the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) could not access an iPhone belonging to one of the deceased attackers, Sayed Farook, through traditional methods.
The FBI prioritizes safety and defense for the people. They are asking Apple to create an encryption that breaks through iPhone security systems, allowing access to vital information. Some argue that Apple is being difficult with the FBI for the sole purpose of product and intellectual property protection.
Apple argues that the government is asking them to create something that currently does not exist; an encryption code-break to create what many refer to as a “back-door” to the iPhone security system. The problem is that they cannot make this for one specific iPhone without compromising the security of all iPhone users around the world.
Joe Dufresne, St. Kate’s Information Security Analyst, notes possible situations where this backdoor could harm the St. Kate’s community.
“Imagine a situation where a St. Kate’s group is traveling abroad and someone’s iPhone is stolen. That international criminal now has access, through the backdoor, to high jack personal and financial information for the entire group traveling,” Dufresne said.
Dufresne was quick to point out that international experiences are not necessarily more risky than any thief in any part of the world getting a hold of an iPhone and stealing information, if Apple is forced to create this back door.
For many years, Apple willingly and cooperatively worked with local law enforcement, as well as the US Government and the FBI to provide information solving cases involving both individuals and terrorist organizations. This case, however, is different, as the FBI is ordering a private company, Apple, to fundamentally change their product to give access to iPhone information.
The FBI argues that this encryption software code that the government would order Apple to create would only affect the phone of the San Bernadinho terrorist. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, addressed this point in his open letter to the world.
“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,” Cook said.
Cook goes on to address big-picture liberty ideas that this case affronts.
“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect,” Cook said.
In February, Bloomberg reported on a secret memo that detailed a meeting at the White House involving high ranking national security officials prior to the San Bernardino shooting.
“In a secret meeting convened by the White House around Thanksgiving, senior national security officials ordered agencies across the U.S. government to find ways to counter encryption software and gain access to the most heavily protected user data on the most secure consumer devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone,” Bloomberg said.
The meeting adjourned with the decision to develop methods around encryption safety nets.
Apple officially opposed an order that would require them to help the FBI break into the iPhone used by Farook, and will now face off against the government in court on March 22.
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