To support their legal battle in Congress over San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, Apple and the FBI are also waging a war of public opinion. So far, the FBI is winning, with over half the US population, 51 percent, saying that Apple should unlock the device, and only 38 percent saying it shouldn’t. Last month, FBI director James Comey penned an editorial to convince the public that Apple must help the agency, and now, Apple VP Craig Federighi has fired back in the Washington Post. In an op-ed piece, he argues that the FBI is endangering everyone’s data by “turn[ing] back the clock to a less-secure time.”
Apple is trying to show that not only its users, but the entire public could be directly affected by the FBI’s order. “They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should go back to the security standards of 2013,” he says. “But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.”
If Apple was forced to create a backdoor by bypassing the passcode protection, “it would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.” In his own editorial, FBI Director James Comey sought to assure the public that it wasn’t trying to set a precedent by hacking the shooter’s iPhone. However, Federighi noted that this has proven false, as law enforcement has since admitted that it wants to use Apple’s security bypass to unlock other iPhones.
Your nation’s vital infrastructure — such as power grids and transportation hubs — becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked. Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.
He adds that Apple is fighting a constant battle against hackers that become more sophisticated every year, and that iPhone breaches can damage more than just the user. “Your nation’s vital infrastructure — such as power grids and transportation hubs — becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked. Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.” Recent attacks certainly bear him out — for instance, a hack that brought down Ukraine’s power grid started with spear-phishing attacks on individual users, according to Wired.
Federighi concluded by saying, “we cannot afford to fall behind those who would exploit technology in order to cause chaos. To slow our pace, or reverse our progress, puts everyone at risk.” It remains to be seen whether his argument convinces the public and, more importantly, the politicians that have the power to do something about the FBI’s directive.