Journalist Steven Petrow has been hacked after writing a story on the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI.
Petrow was flying from Dallas to Raleigh with American Airlines when he decided to get some work done. He was working on a story about how the FBI is asking Apple to create a backdoor that would allow the security agency to extract data from suspects’ iPhones, writes Michael Grothaus for Fast Company.
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Hacker highlights importance of online privacy
The conflict has divided the tech community between those who believe that user privacy is sacred, and those who believe that national security should take precedence.
Petrow was neutral on the issue: “I don’t really need to worry about online privacy,” he wrote for USA Today. “I’ve got nothing to hide. And who would want to know what I’m up to, anyway?”
However that soon changed after he realized “in a chillingly personal way” how much the outcome of the battle could impact everyone. Petrow was hacked mid-flight as he checked his email on the public WiFi network.
Journalist backs Apple in FBI backdoor battle
The passenger told Petrow that he knew the contents of his email inbox and had accessed his computer mid-flight, as well as the computers of other passengers on the plane.
“That’s how I know you’re interested in the Apple story,” the hacker said. “Imagine if you had been doing a financial transaction. What if you were making a date to see a whore?”
The hacker quickly changed Petrow’s opinion on the Apple-FBI case.
“My mind raced: What about my health records? My legal documents? My Facebook messages? That’s why this story is so important to everyone. It’s about everyone’s privacy,” he writes. “I may have been wearing my jacket, but I felt as exposed as if I’d been stark naked.”
It made the journalist realize that a backdoor into an iPhone would make hacking as easy as it is over a public WiFi network like the one on the plane. “For me, I felt as though the stranger on the plane had robbed me of my privacy—as was explicitly his intent. He took the decision of what to share out of my hands,” said Petrow.
The Apple-FBI case will have major implications for everyone, and now the Apple camp has a new member in the shape of Stephen Petrow.