Apple’s top attorney said if the company does comply with the FBI‘s demand and breaks into the iPhone recovered from one of the San Bernardino shooters, it will just make people more unsafe and terrorists bolder. The iPhone maker is in an arms race with cyber-criminals, hackers and terrorists, and the company just wants to ensure that customers’ privacy remains intact, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell told lawmakers on Tuesday.
iPhone’s backdoor debate misplaced
Sewell told lawmakers that by helping the FBI hack the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, the smartphone maker would create a backdoor that could be used by the hackers for dangerous purposes. Terrorists generally use Telegram, an encrypted messaging system that law enforcement can’t spy on, he noted.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing, Sewell said, “It will weaken our safety and security, but it will not affect the terrorists.”
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Meanwhile, the director of the FBI testified that the debate about a backdoor is misplaced. Farook’s iPhone 5c already had a built-in vulnerability that investigators are trying to break into, but they are hoping to get Apple’s help too, testified FBI Director James Comey. The door he mentioned is Farook’s passcode, but there is a setting that removes all phone data if the wrong passcode is entered 10 times.
Apple being overprotective
The FBI has requested that Apple develop software to bypass the lock-out mechanism and allow it unlimited passcode guesses. But the smartphone maker is adamant and argues that the government cannot force it to write software it doesn’t want to.
“If we are ordered to do this, it will be a hot minute before we get these requests from other places,” Sewell said, adding that America is the only country that has demanded Apple’s help to bypass the encryption.
However, Comey insists there are no broad implications of the FBI’s request, and it is simply trying to get into this one particular iPhone. He does agree that the unlocking software could get exploited for the wrong purposes but says it’s a hypothetical scenario.
“What if Apple engineers get kidnapped?” Comey asked rhetorically.
However, cyber-security professor Susan Landau doesn’t agree with Comey, and said if the iPhone maker is constantly compelled to bypass locks, then security will be hurt.