If you’re not sure what is all going on with this whole Apple FBI iPhone backdoor debacle, here’s what you should know about the situation.
You may have seen Apple in the news lately. Not because of a new product release, but rather a completely different beast altogether. The company is refusing to fully cooperate with the government for the sake of protecting privacy rights.
Of course, it goes a bit deeper than that, which is why it can be a rather confusing story to follow, but essentially it all started off with the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino County in California where 14 people were killed and 22 were injured from a mass shooting.
One of the phones used by the one of the shooters was an iPhone 5c, and the FBI have been unable to unlock the device. Since it’s likely that the phone has vital information on it regarding the shooter, the FBI has escalated the matter and have asked Apple to essentially create a unique version of iOS that contains a “backdoor” that would allow the FBI or other government agency to essentially brute-force attack their way into an iPhone if need be.
Brute-force attacks are when a computer guesses passwords to accounts by trying millions of different possible passwords in a matter of minutes, taking as little as a few hours to gain access. This is unable to be done, since the iPhone has a feature that can erase the iPhone’s data completely after ten wrong attempts.
Apple declined to offer such a version of iOS, due to its policies on privacy rights and security in general. Of course, the FBI isn’t giving up, and that’s where present day brings us.
That’s just a brief overview of what has happened and what’s happening, but if you want to know more, here’s what you need to know.
Apple Is Cooperating, but Not Fully
While you may think that Apple isn’t giving the government any information from the suspect’s iPhone, the company actually already did.
According to The Guardian, Apple gave the FBI data from iCloud backups from the iPhone, but those backups stopped on October, about a month and a half before the terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, the company says that it provided all of the information about the iPhone that it had, and the company even offered advice on getting more information.
The FBI believes that there is more data on the phone than what the iCloud backups provide anyway, and this requires knowing the iPhone’s passcode in order to get full access into the device. That’s where Apple has drawn the line.
In order for the FBI to find out the passcode and break into the iPhone, Apple needs to create a backdoor, but the company has refused, even when ordered to do so by the FBI under the All Writs Act of 1789.
As you might have guessed, the All Writs Act is a highly-outdated law that has been used recently by law enforcement to get companies to help them break into a smartphone or tablet if need be, simply because there’s no current legislation on encrypted digital devices. Thus, Apple believes that the FBI is crossing the line.
Backdoors for One-Time Usage
A lot of people have argued that Apple could simply cooperate with the FBI and create a backdoor for the iPhone that they can only use on the suspect’s own iPhone, but Apple and others have argued that this still isn’t a good idea.
If Apple makes this unique version of iOS, we’ll hear that it’s only being used on the San Bernardino terrorists, and it’s likely that could be 100% true. However, the argument is that the creation of a digital tool that could break into iPhones simply can’t be destroyed and never seen again.
Copies can be made and leaks can occur, and it would only take a matter of time before that one-time usage turns into a multiple-use tool that every government agency has access to.
Furthermore, if Apple is finally forced to create a backdoor for the suspect’s iPhone, it can easily be done again in the future.
What Happens Now?
Right now, the main stuff is over with: the FBI has demanded Apple to create a backdoor and Apple has refused, and now we’re just waiting to see what happens next.
It’s likely that this will bounce around many different court systems, and it’s said that the House of Representatives’s judiciary committee will hold a hearing next month about this issue.
Furthermore, US Senator Diane Feinstein has hinted that the Senate could pass new legislation if Apple refused to create the necessary backdoor.
So for now, we wait and see what happens, but you can be proactive if you want and email Feinstein to voice your opinion, as well as sign the petition that aims to halt the government’s efforts to force Apple to create a backdoor for the iPhone.