In about two weeks’ time, Apple and the FBI will formally meet in court to determine the fate, not only of the San Bernardino case, but of the entire tech security industry in general and for years to come. Both sides continue to gather arguments, allies, and rhetoric, neither willing to budget from their position. After the latest puzzling “cyber pathogen” claim from the FBI, Apple is letting out another volley of arguments, this time from VP of software engineering Craig Federighi, who says that what the FBI wants it practically to turn back the clock on years of progress in protecting citizens from harm.
It’s simply a variation of a theme you’ve probably heard before. Apple has long held that what the FBI is trying to compel it to do via a legal order will inevitably open the doors, front or back, to criminals who want to crack open those iPhones. But nevermind the criminals, government authorities themselves are lining up to get their hands on this forbidden fruit even before harvest time.
Federighi’s piece on the Washington Post puts the case in light of iOS 7, which was released in 2013. In effect, he says that the FBI is telling Apple that iOS 7’s safeguards are enough, which is to say enough for government hackers to break through. The problem, however, is that those same vulnerabilities are already widespread on the Internet. There’s even a business floating around selling tools and knowledge to less skilled hackers.
Security must move forward, not backward, says Federighi, and the FBI is practically trying to travel back in time. However, the progress in security research, encryption, and tools have allowed even the government to stay a step ahead of criminals. Reverting to 2013’s standards would give those criminals the upper hand. Criminals who have already been able to break into federal government computers.
By now, most of the arguments from both sides of the debate have fallen of deaf ears on the opposite sides. The FBI is even stepping up its game, with “breaking news” revelations of possible “cyber pathogen” and even the name of a possible third shooter, perhaps in an attempt to strike fear and build a sense of urgency. With just days before the trial, we expect more arguments and perhaps even more heated accusations, to be thrown around.