In an op-ed piece for the The Washington Post on Sunday, Apple Vice President Craig Federighi explained the reasoning behind his company’s stand on device encryption, and criticized the idea of offering a law enforcement backdoor to Apple’s software, the devices, and the data stored on those devices.
Federighi discussed how protections on Apple’s iOS devices not only help prevent unauthorized access to a user’s personal data, but also presents “a critical line of defense against criminals who seek to implant malware or spyware and to use the device of an unsuspecting person to gain access to a business, public utility or government agency.”
Federighi points out that in just the past 18 months, hackers have stolen data from personal users, banks, retail chains, and even the government.
“Your phone is more than a personal device. In today’s mobile, networked world, it’s part of the security perimeter that protects your family and co-workers. Our nation’s vital infrastructure — such as power grids and transportation hubs — becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked. Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.”
Federighi says the federal government wants to turn security standards back to iOS 7 levels:
“That’s why it’s so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.”
He added, “to get around Apple’s safeguards, the FBI wants us to create a backdoor in the form of special software that bypasses passcode protections, intentionally creating a vulnerability that would let the government force its way into an iPhone. Once created, this software — which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones — would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.”
The op-ed piece from Federighi is just the latest salvo in the heated war of words between Apple, and federal and local law enforcement agencies. Also on Sunday, New York Police Department counter-terrorism head John Miller, in an appearance on John Catsimatidis’s The Cats Roundtable radio show said, “I still don’t know what made [Apple] change their minds and decide to actually design a system that made them not able to aid the police.”
“You are actually providing aid to the kidnappers, robbers and murderers who have actually been recorded on the telephones in Riker’s Island telling their compatriots on the outside, ‘You gotta get iOS 8. It’s a gift from God,’ — and that’s a quote — ‘because the cops can’t crack it,’” said Miller.
New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance shared that same account during last week’s U.S. congressional hearing, where he claimed his agency has been unable to access 175 iPhones linked to criminal activity, due to Apple’s encryption.
Last month a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to aid federal investigators in their effort to access data on the iPhone 5c used by Farook. Apple has officially opposed that order, and the company will now face off in court against the FBI on March 22.