It’s common knowledge that the government can “check up” on us when they feel the need to with the help of companies, namely for investigations. Many people argue that it’s highly invasive and is against people’s rights. Could there be a way to opt-out of such a regulation in the US?
One company, Apple is taking the stand against the government. The world’s largest technology business could easily create future versions of their iPhones they release to be extremely secure In fact, they can make it so secure that law enforcements can’t crack its encryption.
How did this all start? The FBI recently made a current request for Apple to make a special, less secure version of its iOS iPhone software for the San Bernardino terrorist, Syed Farook’s phone. If a less secure version were to be installed, it would be simpler for the FBI to guess Farook’s password. Right now, Apple’s software can allow upgrades without needing a password.
Future iPhones could be made to lock out these changes or wipe out the data if such an update were made. Doing that would most definitely bring the clash back to the state’s capital where presidents and lawmakers have struggled for many years to find a middle ground between the privacy and security people expect.
Currently, lawmakers in California and New York are fighting for legislation that would require phone developers keep a window open for law enforcement. It’s believed that Apple will appeal to a magistrate judge ruling on the Farook case.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, mentioned that the software would likely create a backdoor for every iPhone if they agree with the government. He added that the software might leak out and get misused.
There is a split opinion with several tech firms, like Facebook and Google giving Apple nothing but support. Meanwhile, many politicians and those from law enforcement feel the opposite. Robert Cattanach, a partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney, stated that fight over the terrorist’s case will also figure into the debate over broader policy changes regardless of what Apple does with iPhones in the future. He says that if the legislation is passed, it would require tech companies to give the government permission to crack encryption.
With every new phone release, Apple has successfully made their iPhones increasingly secure. Their technology has helped millions of iPhone owners shield their personal data from getting into the wrong hands. Still, the legal issue is that it’s harder for law enforcement to pull out data from those they need to investigate.
Apple is not making their moves purely to prioritize security, though. Consumers everywhere are getting increasingly concerned with each new hack scandal. This includes the 2014 breach of Apple’s iCloud service where hundreds of videos and nude pictures of celebrities were released.
Edward Snowden’s revelations also mentioned the many efforts from the government, to crack iPhone security. September of 2014 made the largest change for Apple when they released a new version of their iOS system that encrypted every iPhone user’s data, like their chat logs and pictures, using virtually uncrackable encoding. Before that, law enforcement was able to extract information from locked phones without needing a password since the data was held in an unencrypted format. Once that change was made, all attempts to retrieve data became a mission.
In the last year, Apple added a different hardware security feature they called the secure enclave where a fingerprint scan would be needed. The feature itself is a separate processing chip used only to secure data. Any action from the chip is encrypted, banishing vulnerabilities that hackers may find.
Future iPhones could be made to lock itself out the data which became apparent after the confusion with the Farook case. He has a dated 5c model which ran up to date software. Experts believed the FBI’s requested software trick from Apple couldn’t trick the secure enclave. Apple revoked that comment, mentioning a similar workaround could get applied to later phones too. The secure enclave is reprogrammable, the firmware aspect, which Apple claimed they can reset. Experts noted Apple could indeed change the secure enclave in a later version to block them from its operating software even with no password. Either that or the chip could be made to eliminate all date if it detects tampering.
Lead engineer at Clever and security expert, Ben Adida, who formerly worked at Mozilla and Square left an interesting comment. He believed Apple will move toward creating the most sensitive parts of that stack updateable. However, it would be only to erase or keep date only if the phone is unlocked with success. He adds that the most intriguing question is if Apple will truly have legal rights to produce their phones in that manner.