Apple vs. the FBI

I'm becoming increasingly frustrated about the reporting around Apple vs. the FBI, which is largely this narrative:

FBI: "You have to fly"

Apple: "Flying is something we've never done before, and doesn't really seem reasonable"

FBI: "No, we asked you to jump 70 times before, we can see that you can jump. So all you have to do is not land."

Apple: "Flying and jumping are fundamentally different things."

Politicians: "Isn't there a compromise, couldn't you just hover for a few minutes?"

The FBI wants a custom version of iOS developed and deployed onto this phone which removes the 10 pin retry limit,  removes the delay between pins, and allowa the pins to be sent over an electronic interface directly (not via the touch screen). This would allow the FBI to brute force password crack the phone (all Hollywood style). They have said that it's ok for this version of iOS to be linked to this specific device.

The problem: there doesn't exist any version of iOS out there that will do this. It doesn't exist for a reason, because iOS was designed and engineered with security in mind. Building a version of iOS such a thing existing anywhere exposes users, given the data breaches that exist that let things get out into the real world. How do you really bind it to a single device? How do you ensure that if extracted that couldn't be tweaked to work on other devices? These are pretty hard engineering and security challenges, especially considering all the side channels that exist. The 10 pin limit was that protection point before, and as can be seen, a reasonably secure one.

It's also frustrating that the reporting of the anti FBI side is just privacy, because it's not. What about the safety of diplomats abroad, or undercover law enforcement. Better security makes us all safer.

Disclaimer: I am in general not an Apple fan. I hate their stance on interoperability and standards (which is basically to never play well with others). However they are making a stand here that's critically important as technology becomes more and more of an extension of ourselves.

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One thought on “Apple vs. the FBI”

  1. > It's also frustrating that the reporting of the anti FBI side is just privacy, because it's not. What about the safety of diplomats abroad, or undercover law enforcement.

    How are these examples “not privacy”?

    As I see it, “just privacy” is indeed a crucial issue all by itself. As you say, it's needed for safety, for personal security. The FBI's demands are a threat to the entire privacy infrastructure. The FBI's advantage in this dispute is that the general public, seeing the high-tech world as simply magic, doesn't understand why the FBI's “simple request” subverts computer security for all of us.

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