Debate Over Unlocking Data

photo courtesy of Google images

photo courtesy of Google images

Chase Moran, Staff Writer

What’s on your iPhone? Bank account information, passwords to websites containing thing such as your home address, and much more personal information can be found on the average cell phone. In a society where all this personal information is held in our pocket, it’s crucial to protect that data from the myriad of hackers and black hat programmers who are out for that data, for our own safety. Apple’s method of achieving this is encryption, a method of digital protection that requires a randomly generated password, or “key”, to access. When the FBI orders Apple to make a key to every one of their locks in the world as a software update, they suddenly endanger the security of every single iPhone in existence.

The demand came about during an investigation on the San Bernardino killers. The FBI believes that the iPhone of one of the perpetrators could contain valuable information on the motivations for the massacre. While I do feel much sympathy for the victims of this terrible event, the following actions of the FBI are irresponsible, uninformed, and could be the end of personal security as we know it. They asked Apple to develop a custom version of iOS without encryption that can be installed on any iPhone compatible with the base version. If you have an iPhone 4S or up (all of the iPhone models compatible with iOS 8 or higher, the versions with encryption), this could put your phone at risk.

The FBI and its defenders will tell you that they will only use this on one device, but that’s simply not the case. If the FBI just suddenly feels like it should be more powerful and gives itself this power through the All Writs Act, an act that could theoretically make their presence in America reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, they already have a backlog of numerous other iPhones that they want this custom update for. Even if they do only use this once, data is never truly deleted. What if hackers were to get their hands on it, or reverse engineer iOS and find out how to replicate the effect? Every single iOS device in the world would immediately be at risk, and Apple wouldn’t be able to do anything because the FBI would have control over them.

“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his letter to his consumers. “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.” Before you start complaining about how Apple is just a greedy company pulling a publicity stunt, ask yourselves this: would you give the government the key to every house in the United States if you knew that a criminal would easily be able to replicate that key?