Apple has been served a court order requesting that it break security on the smartphone previously owned by the deceased gunman behind the San Bernardino attacks last year. Apple however is thought likely to contest the order, which comes at a time when debates are raging around encryption and the government felt ‘need’ for backdoors into smart device security protections.
The reason for the court order is that the FBI believes the individual’s phone contains crucial information about the man and his wife, who was complicit in the attack. However since 2014 Apple has offered by default, end to end encryption on its iPhones, making reading what is on the devices rather difficult if you don’t have that user’s password..
Despite these complications however, the FBI wants Apple to alter the phone’s software so that the authorities can make unlimited attempts to crack the password – the default is ten, before the device wipes itself. It also wants Apple to make it possible to rapidly try different passcodes – suggesting it is hoping to automate the process in a brute force attempt at guessing the password (as per BBC).
Although Apple hasn’t released a public statement about the order, it is thought likely to resist it. Although complying with the FBI on this might seem like a simple matter, weakening the security of its devices in any manner would suggest to nefarious individuals that that could be done to innocent devices, be it by Apple or themselves.
Once a precedent has been set too, there’s no telling what other devices the FBI or other policing organisations might bring to Apple with demands for special treatment. If users don’t trust that Apple won’t resist such orders, they may be less interested in buying Apple products in the future too.
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KitGuru Says: While it seems like the FBI is trying to avoid a head on discussion about smartphone security by asking for help, rather than an outright crack, considering the way politicians are gunning for encryption backdoors, if any tech company gives ground right now, it has the potential to have huge ramifications.