iPhone Encryption Pits Apple against the FBI

A battle is raging over the encryption of iPhone data between Apple, which manufactures the devices, and the FBI, which would like to access the encrypted data. The feds say specifically that they want to see what’s in the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook’s cellphone. Farook is one of the suspect’s in the recent San Bernardino shootings. The shootings left 14 victims dead, and 21 wounded, after suspects opened fire at a state-run facility for persons with developmental disabilities.

Armed with a search warrant for the cell phone, the FBI told a judge it was prevented from opening the phone because of the encryption, which is designed as a privacy protection measure by Apple. In response, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide the encrypted data to investigators in the form of “reasonable technical assistance.” Apple has vowed to fight the order.

Apple has also issued a message to its customers, in which it covers a number of issues involved with the encryption and the current dispute with the FBI. Those issues include:

  • Why Encryption is Needed? Basically, Apple explains that encryption protects us all against hackers and criminals who might obtain access to our financial information, health data, photos, and lots of private info that we store on our phones. Among other things, they say that compromising this information puts our personal safety at risk.
  • Relationship to the Shootings in San Bernardino. The FBI wants to access the suspect’s iPhone to see what information it might contain. But the feds aren’t simply asking Apple to access a single phone – rather, they want Apple to build a new version of the iPhone operating system which circumvents security procedures, and install it on the iPhone recovered during the FBI investigation.
  • The Threat Posed by Accessing the Encrypted Data. The software, which does not currently exist, would create a “backdoor” that would have the capacity to unlock any iPhone in the world. In other words, the backdoor code used for this phone could be used over and over again.

We’ll continue to follow the case as it moves forward. Apple seems intent at this point to continue to challenge the government on this very sensitive issue.

George Vomvolakis Law Offices
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