Apple’s Federighi: FBI backdoor could ‘wreak havoc’ on our personal safety

Apple FBI iPhone Craig Federighi

Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi is one of the company’s most compelling public speakers and now he’s making the case against forcing Apple to hack into the iPhone 5c that was used by one of the shooters in last year’s San Bernardino massacre.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Federighi explains that Apple is trying to stay one step ahead of digital criminals with iOS and OS X security. He conceded that in the battle with hackers, “nothing is 100 percent secure,” and a mistake in one single line of code coming from expert programmers could be exploited by individuals with malicious intentions.

However, he believes that this makes it even more important for Apple to stand its ground against the FBI.

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Specifically, he explains that breaking into the iPhone the way the FBI wants will put at risks all other devices out there. The same tools Apple could build to assist the FBI – breaking through the lock screen password to retrieve data by brute force — could then be exploited by others in future attacks.

“[The] threat to our personal information is just the tip of the iceberg. Your phone is more than a personal device,” the exec writes. “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 adds that his team works hard to stay ahead of criminals and that today’s strong software protections will constitute the base of tomorrow’s software. He says that the encryption technology in today’s iPhone is “the best data security available to consumers,” which manages to protect not just their data, but also prevent attempts to attack businesses, public utilities or government agencies.

“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,” Federighi continues. “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 further adds that the backdoor the FBI wants, and which it said it would use on many iPhones “would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.”

His message seems to be loud and clear. Apple doesn’t want to back down – and from the looks of it, the company is interested in further strengthening the security of iPhones. Federighi’s full letter is available at this link.

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