After taking hold of the media for far too long, the current battle between the US Department of Justice and Apple over a locked iPhone used by the terrorist responsible for the San Bernardino attack is complete. In a simple two page court document, the government states that they have gained access to the iPhone and no longer needs Apple.
The resolution of this issue now begs more questions.
Now that the government has a method to open this phone, can we safely assume the method can be used on other iPhones? While authorities have answered that as of now the method is only for this make of phone on this OS, but I believe it’s logical to think the same method would work on other models. Surely it is only a matter of time before the FBI will be able to open any other iPhones being held as evidence in court cases. Is this really preferable for Apple?
In this case, Apple was ordered to open one phone. Many concessions were made in that order, to ensure that Apple’s method of opening the phone would be known only to Apple, and would be completed by Apple, to ensure that with this order, only this phone would be opened. Apple refused. Their reason for refusal was the privacy of all iPhone users. Tim Cook stated that Apple opening this one phone could lead to a backdoor to get in to all iPhones.
Does this reasoning pass the test? I don’t believe so. Because Apple refused to open one phone, the FBI now has a method to open many more, possibly all. If privacy was truly the primary concern, wouldn’t it had been better had Apple opened the device and held control of the method? I think the answer is obvious.
Will the FBI tell Apple how they did it? This shocks me. I have seen various people in various articles stating that the FBI should clue Apple in to how the phone was cracked. I have seen it argued that since Apple’s encryption is flawed, citizens are at risk of other governments cracking US citizen’s phones, and for this reason, the FBI should inform Apple how they cracked it. I disagree. Apple’s foray in to privacy and security is very new. Yet, people had no problem buying iPhones before this. Most Android devices are not encrypted by default, yet it’s the most popular mobile OS on the planet. No, the public was surely not concerned about foreign governments obtaining information from their iPhone before, why would they start now? Furthermore, in a case of national security, Apple chose fight against helping the US government. Now the government should help Apple to fix it’s problems? I think not.
How unbreakable was Apple’s encryption after all? Apparently not very. The FBI planned on testing this method out to ensure it would work without harming the phone. They had originally stated that they would inform the court of it’s findings on April 5th. Instead, within a few days (a holiday weekend at that) the FBI had cracked the phone and stepped away from the case. It appears cracking the phone wasn’t nearly as tough as Apple portrayed.
Was this a marketing stunt? I don’t believe it started out that way. I believe as I’ve stated in past posts, that it was more of a cost saving measure. There is no doubt that Apple turned this in to a marketing ploy once it began though. Tim Cook’s open letter was nothing more than Apple marketing. Cook used scare tactics to make iPhone users believe that their phone was at risk if Apple were to help the government open the terrorists phone. Apple received a lot of free press over the last month because of this. Apple had media all over the world stating that iPhone encryption was basically unbreakable. With today’s news, that’s been proved incorrect. Not only was it breakable, it was breakable in much less time than was originally planned.
Sometimes we all do something that we wish we could take back. I am thinking that this tonight, Tim Cook wishes he had never taken this issue public.
See the court documents below.