In several instances, the federal government has attempted to compel Apple to help unlock the iPhones of suspects, but Apple has refused. FBI officials say that the iPhones should be unlocked in other to gain access to sensitive information during terrorist and criminal investigations.The FBI on its cannot gain access to the iPhones of users because the phones are programmed to wipe off data after ten incorrect logs in attempts. This method is called the brute force approach and risk erasing data / locking the device forever, thereby rendering it useless. This is a standard security mechanism in the iPhone, and Apple has said to they would create new software in other to get around the security measures.
FBI APPLE phone encryption disputes
FBI – APPLE phone encryption disputes.
Unlocking iPhone would require the version of software to be created.
The FBI wants access to the iPhones of suspected terrorist and criminals.
The software could compromise millions of iPhone users.
FBI – Apple goes to court.
FBI uses 3rd party applications to unlock phones.
Consequences apple could face in the future.
Implications of creating a backdoor
Apple is reluctant to create new software that can unlock iPhones because of its user privacy concerns. But the FBI insists that getting access to suspects’ devices is a way of ensuring public safety, and it would seek court orders in other to force apple to create a backdoor. Creating such software can as well get into the hands of hackers and other bad actors that could use it for criminal activities. The case between the FBI and Apple created a legal battle between security and privacy.The FBI wanted Apple to create a special version of the iOS operating software, and sideload it to iPhones. Doing this would retain the data in the phones but enable the FBI to try an unlimited number of passcode electronically until the right one is gotten. Apple was convinced that the software would get into the wild and would be almost impossible to retrieve. People would misuse it and could undermine the devices of millions of Apple usersSome critics have said the Government insistence on Apple creating a back door is simply aimed at weakening Apple encryption mechanism. Law enforcement agencies would easily access locked devices and would put the privacy of millions of people at risk.
A long-standing encryption debate
There has been long-standing encryption and privacy debate between the FBI and tech giants. The FBI asked Apple to help unlock the iPhone of a suspected criminal named Mohammad Alshamrani. In December, the suspected criminal killed three people in a shooting spree, which was carried out on the Naval base of Pensacoa in Florida. The FBI general Dana Boente said in a letter that FBI officials are seeking the help of Apple in other to retrieve information from the suspect’s iPhone. In another instance, in 2015, the FBI sought the help of Apple after a suspected criminal carried out a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, and killed 14 people. The FBI and tech companies have been at loggerheads for the past decade over encryption issues amid privacy concerns.
Third-Party system to Hack iPhone
Third Party System to Hack iPhone
After apple’s refused to create a backdoor, the FBI applied for a court order compelling Apple to write software to access iPhones. The FBI won the case, but before Apple could develop the software, the FBI used a third-party tool to decrypt the iPhone. The FBI turned to its in-house hackers and trusted third party suppliers who had the technical ability to break into the phones. It is estimated that the FBI spent about $1million in creating the third party software used in breaking into the iPhone.
Could Apple face the consequences of refusing to unlock phones in the future?
The risk of facing the consequences is there, but it depends on how the dispute plays out in the future. Apple is more likely to face the consequences if congress or the court is involved in such a dispute. Congress could mandate tech giants like Apple to comply with law enforcement agents and create a back door in other to access phones. However, it could also go the other way around, and lawmakers could take steps to protect users’ privacy better. It is also possible for Apple to face economic consequences. In the past, Apple has enjoyed the tariff exemption, which can be revoked.
A future conflict between the FBI and Apple depends, to a larger extent, the version of the iPhone the FBI wants to investigate. The older versions, such as iPhone 5 and iPhone 7, have some security flaws which can be exploited by third-party applications and cracked. While the newer version of the iPhone 7, which was released in September 2019, runs on the latest IOS 13 operating systems and is better encrypted. The FBI may not have the capability to crack the later versions and might seek legal means in compelling Apple to decrypt it.