The encryption battle between Apple and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation shows no signs of letting up; the FBI’s attempts to compel Apple to write software that would unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists under the authority of the 18th century All Writ’s Law has caused controversy throughout the tech world. The role of social media and tech companies in the fight against terrorism continues to be the subject of debate.

encryptCraig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of engineering, recently stated in an op-ed piece published yesterday in The Washington Post that the FBI’s efforts actually threatened to weaken national security.

According to Federighi, terrorists and other malintended criminals could launch attacks on the infrastructure vital to our every day life through access “to just one person’s smartphone.” He went on to describe encryption on smartphones as “a critical line of defense.”

Federighi also criticized law enforcement officials over their request that Apple return to the safeguards created for iOS 7. These safeguards “have since been breached by hackers,” wrote Federghi. “Further, hacker kits to attack iOS 7 weaknesses are available to less-skilled attackers.”

“Yesterday’s best defenses cannot fend off the attacks of today or tomorrow,” stated Federighi. He believes there’s no going back in the security game, which is more of “an endless race” against hackers than a constant proliferation of relevant safeguards.

Federighi’s op-ed prompted over 800 responses for and against his position.

“Arguing that only bad actors need worry about government intrusions is specious since the data analytics that sifts through metadata and associated content to establish networks of associations… is hardly foolproof,” wrote one user under the name Code Ferret.

Joan Ashley stated her worry that “The FBI could abuse the power obtained under a favorable court ruling.”

However, Rbobbin disagreed, stating that encryption is too sweeping.

Even among the security committee, opinions vary.

“Compelling Apple to build a backdoor for its own product actually undermines the security and personal safety of millions of Americans and others around the world, especially those living under authoritarian regimes,” stated staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Sophia Cope. She continues on to state that this occurs “by creating the legal precedent, by weakening the trust users have in software updates supposedly authorized by companies, and by building the technology itself.”

encrypt2Ebba Blitz, CEO of Alertsec, stated her opinion on the matter rather concisely: “Walking backwards into the future is never a clever way… It’s not only weakening encryption for individuals and companies; it’s also weakening encryption for the American government… by creating the possibility of brute force attacks, we are paving the way for anyone, including terrorists, to hack into our data easily.”

Blitz went on to consider the outcome that the law could potentially drive the U.S. tech industry overseas.

“Everything from health data to financial data to conversations with and about our kids is protected because of encryption,” stated Jake Ward, president and CEO of the Application Developers Alliance. “Why would we want to go back to iOS 7?”

He says that purposefully degrading encryption “just for the good guys” is not actually a possibility. “You can’t secure your home while leaving a window open for the police, hoping bad guys don’t find and use it.”

 

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