More iPhones Targeted

by Mike on March 4, 2016

in News

After a California court ordered Apple to circumvent the encryption on one terrorist’s iPhone, the government requested that Apple give them access to several more iPhones. These new requests are not even related to any terror cases. Apple knew that this would happen, and is the reason why they denied the requested access and are now fighting the court’s decision. The government said that the requested iPhone crack would be used only for this case, but now we see that Apple’s reluctance was not unfounded.

Justice Department Demands More Access

The Justice Department has requested access to a reported 9 iPhones in the last week. This is in addition to the one used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. These new requests are not related to cases of terror, which substantiates the fears that these government requests will go outside the realm of emergency cases. Apple refused the initial request from the FBI because they were concerned that it would create a precedent. Now we see the California ruling paving the way for more requests just a few days after it was made. Apple is also fighting these new requests, which other reports claim are a total of 12 so far.

When Apple appealed the Justice Department’s ruling on the San Bernardino iPhone, the company was accused of being concerned only about their image. The Justice Department was quoted as claiming that Apple did not have any legal leg to stand on, and that it was denying them access only to preserve their brand marketing strategy and maintain their business model. There isn’t anything wrong with the company choosing to take a stand to protect its customers and preserve their promise of security. Apple has cooperated with previous search orders and subpoenas, but simply can’t create a vulnerability that puts all iPhones at risk and exposes their users to unlawful surveillance and cybercriminal attacks. The government has pulled out the 1789 All Writs Act to try and force Apple to break these iPhones, and it remains to be seen whether Apple also has the law on its side. There are differing opinions among magistrate judges, and we hope that the court will finally decide that the reasonable technical assistance that Apple has already provided satisfies the law without forcing them to go as far as decrypting iPhones.

Apple is arguing their case on the basis of civil liberties, pulling out the First Amendment to back up their refusal to create the dangerous iOS version. This operating system would bypass the two passcode security features that erase the phone data when the code is entered wrong and restrict the use of USBs to crack codes by brute force. Meantime, Apple is also working on stronger security for iPhones and iCloud in anticipation of more efforts by the Justice Department to get into encrypted iPhones. These efforts make iPhones hackable by anyone, which is what Apple is trying to prevent.

Tech Community Supports Encryption

Many in the tech community understand Apple’s stance on the issue and have given their support. Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Box are among these. Microsoft has expressed that they believe in cooperating with the government in terror cases, but since the requests no longer pertain to such, we hope that Bill Gates will change his mind and help them fight to maintain privacy and security. Other groups like the EFF, Access Now, Fight for the Future, the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Internet Infrastructure Coalition have also pledged their support in the Apple-FBI battle.

Public Opinion

The public is divided on the debate over the San Bernardino iPhone. In a Pew Research poll, about half think that Apple should cooperate fully to assist in the investigation, and about 40% think that encryption should be protected. The rest are undecided. In a Reuters poll, 35% agreed with the Justice Department and nearly half were in Apple’s camp while 20% were undecided. In a casual CNBC poll, 58% supported Apple and the rest supported the government. Some may be surprised at the number of people on the side of the government, but we have to remember that the polls were conducted pertaining to only the specific case of the iPhone connected to the terror attack in San Bernardino. We are expecting to see different numbers on any polls taken on the succeeding requests.

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