The tech titan known as Apple has made their final decision perfectly clear refusing the US court order to assist the FBI in gaining access to one of the shooter’s iPhones from last year’s massacre in San Bernardino, California.
This incident which resulted in 14 people dead and 22 seriously injured on December 2nd of 2015 was declared a blatant act of terrorism. Ever since, the FBI has had in their possession an iPhone 5C belonging to one shooter. Apparently, they lack the security code which was set by the user and is necessary to unlock the phone.
The FBI has made their demands to Apple to create firmware that would permit them the chance to bypass security features which protect the privacy of iPhone users. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently published “A Message to Our Customers” which explains the company’s resistance and non-compliance with the government’s request.
With supporters for both sides coming out of the woodwork, this is a heated debate that has created a massive division in this country over the last few days. While many of Apple’s competitive tech rivals have chosen sides, Microsoft’s famous founder Bill Gates has made it apparent that he believes companies should be forced to comply with law enforcement agencies during terrorism investigations.
Differing Points of View
When it comes to the perspective of the FBI, the contents of the shooter’s phone could offer critical clues and evidence or even contact information for other terrorists.
On the other hand, Apple’s point of view states that such firmware creates a backdoor which would have significant impact on both the security and privacy of all customers. This is all due to the United States government subsequently having the capability of gaining access to virtually any iPhone in their possession.
Basically, such special firmware may potentially be utilized to access personal and sensitive information on anyone’s iPhone. As these are more versatile devices than ever before often containing private emails, messages and contacts or even financial and credit card data, this is a huge issue.
It’s completely understandable that Apple has chosen to oppose the order. In fact, their compliance could very well affect their reputation with customers as most would lose confidence in the company’s ability to guard their privacy. Plus, this could have international implications as well. Could this firmware be used on devices issued from other countries? Would this affect international privacy laws?
Despite the fact that Apple’s iOS firmware has been put through a myriad of testing by both the company and the public, vulnerability is still a possibility. One particular vulnerability that offers hackers the opportunity to bypass the lock screen with Siri was announced last September. Though it provided access to contacts and photos, it does demonstrate flaws in firmware currently existing.
Furthermore, an ethical hacker could also be of assistance in reverse engineering the firmware. However, doing such has been explicitly forbidden by the Apple iOS Software license agreement making the ethics of obvious question. It’s important to keep in mind that any attempt to break into this device will have associated risks.
Just using brute force with the security code by inputting every password combo could lead to the device being completely erased. The importance of preserving the device is apparent. Maintaining the forensic integrity without damaging it in any way is a task the FBI has demonstrated they are largely incapable of. For the backdoor to work, Apple would be forced to also prove it maintains the integrity of data from other users.
The ultimate dilemma remains. Developing this precedent will permit the process to be repeated in other instances occurring whenever the US government sees fit.
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