Craig Federighi: FBI Wants to 'Turn Back Clock to Less-Secure Time'

federighiApple VP Craig Federighi has published an op-ed in The Washington Post in which he criticizes the idea of a government backdoor into the company's software and accuses the FBI of wanting to "turn back the clock to a less-secure time".

In the op-ed, published yesterday, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering writes that Apple must "work tirelessly" to stay one step ahead of criminal attackers who "seek to pry into personal information and even co-opt devices to commit broader assaults that endanger us all".

Federighi notes that in just the past 18 months, hackers have stolen millions of people's credit card information, social security numbers and fingerprint records from retail chains, banks and even the federal government. However, Federighi calls these digital defense breaches "the tip of the iceberg".

Your phone is more than a personal device. 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 the encryption technology built into Apple's iPhones doesn't just help keep customers' information secure, but also provides "a critical line of defense against criminals who seek to implant malware or spyware and to use the device of an unsuspecting person to gain access to a business, public utility or government agency." Therefore any attempt to hamper Apple's attempts to plug points of weakness in the company's software would be "a serious mistake".

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. 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.

To get around Apple’s safeguards, the FBI wants us to create a backdoor in the form of special software that bypasses passcode protections, intentionally creating a vulnerability that would let the government force its way into an iPhone. Once created, this software — which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones — would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.

Last month, FBI director James Comey penned an editorial in which he rejected Apple CEO Tim Cook's assertion that the agency was trying to set a precedent in its attempts to compel the company to create a backdoor into its software, calling the particular legal issue "actually quite narrow".

However, in a U.S. congressional hearing just last week, Comey admitted under oath that the outcome of the dispute would likely "guide how other courts handle similar requests". Additionally, in the same hearing, New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance said New York now has more than a hundred devices it would like to see unlocked, further confirming Apple's point that the argument isn't about just one iPhone.

Apple has officially opposed an order that would require it to help the FBI break into the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook and will now face off against the government in court on March 22.

Dozens of technology companies, industry trade groups, and encryption experts have submitted documents to support Apple, all catalogued on Apple's website. Five families of San Bernardino victims have filed in support of the FBI.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

photographypro Avatar
108 months ago
It's a damn lie when the FBI says this is only about one iPhone. What amazes me is no one is discussing the fact that the terrorists destroyed two personal cell phones to the point where the FBI is unable to get any information off those phones. They also removed a hard drive from their computer which to date has not been found.

I'm sure the terrorists didn't say "we won't destroy this iPhone because we trust Apple and Tim Cook to protect the data on it." If there was anything of value on this iPhone it would've been destroyed!
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Morod Avatar
108 months ago
Keep to the high ground, Apple. Stay the course, so to speak.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ZombiePete Avatar
108 months ago
The FBI is perfectly entitled to take reasonable steps to ensure your safety and security and I demand the FBI has access to anybody's phone who might compromise those states. This is just plain old common sense it today's world.
This, to me, is what we as a free society really should be afraid of. Whatever it takes to make me feel safe; I don't care if civil liberties need to be trampled, just a bit, to make me feel that way, regardless of how effective such access would actually be at making us safer.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Benjamin Frost Avatar
108 months ago
Apple can turn back time by selling a Mac Pro from 2014 in 2016.
Even more amazing, the new flagship iPhone in 2016 still comes in 16GB, the same size that was offered in 2009.

Time travel indeed.
[doublepost=1457355050][/doublepost]
I'm so sick of this story. Can we just let it play out in the courts/congress. What more is there to say?
I, for one, welcome MacRumor's thorough coverage of one of the most important topics of our time.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Porco Avatar
108 months ago
Less-Securetime is not as much fun as Facetime or Quicktime.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Crosscreek Avatar
108 months ago
All we have to do is look at the Snowden incident to see how the Government handles privacy and security.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)