The tech giant Apple was recently inquired by the FBI to help hack into an iPhone owned by a suspect involved in a shooting. The issue is that this isn’t a normal case where information needs to be taken from a phone or online services. Apple usually complies with the FBI in these instances but this time a request was made for alternative software to be made to break encryption. This would allow the FBI to get past security protection put on the device for every iPhone owner’s protection. Apple has publicly stated that they’re against this form of investigation and will not fulfill the request.
I found a few points in the article to be worth mentioning. The first thing that was apparent is just how secure our information is from the FBI. Otherwise there would be no need for them to make requests such as these. As a customer I want to have the ability to protect my own private information and its key to my purchase. Apple ensures very good security and has an excellent reputation for it. If Apple chooses to break its own security methods it also means that it will forever be broken and the method can be repeated on any other device given to the FBI. This would eliminate Apples history of strong security, as this ‘backdoor’ will always be open. This is important as most business rely on Apples security features to protect their own confidential data and if Apple cannot protect its own than why should they?
Another point I found interesting was the information on the iPhone password lock, specifically in the case of the suspects phone. For the FBI the password is the currently the largest obstacle. Traditionally the password was 4 digits in length and with software tricks it could easily be brute forced by trial and error. The issue is that the suspect has enabled a security feature to erase data from the phone if more than a certain amount of wrong passwords are entered. The FBI wants apple to remove this limit and the time lockout so they can easily solve the password. Since newer versions have been released it has circumvented the FBI’s traditional methods of handling these situations. If the FBI cannot get past this protection they will not have access to important data that led up to the shooting.
The article also discusses how easily Apple could do this if they’re legally forced to oblige. They would have to create a custom version of the operating system that would allow for the passcode to be made useless. The issue is that it proves that the system can be modified in such a way for this to work. Anyone would also be able to get around this major security component of the iPhone. I feel that this should not be done and that Apple should just disable the auto erase feature for the device without any major software manipulation if possible.
I feel that this article might have overlooked the availability of exploits that currently break Apples security features. Popular rooting or “Jailbreaking” allows for root access to the device and modification of the software functionality without the need of Apples intervention. It might be in the FBI’s interest to break into the software themselves and gain root access to the device. This method of gaining root access is very popular and some even place bounties for security holes to be discovered.