Craig Federighi on Renewed Government Push for Backdoor Device Access: 'Weakening Security Makes No Sense'

Law enforcement officials are revisiting proposals that would require tech companies to build backdoor access into electronic devices to allow for better access to data in criminal investigations, reports The New York Times.

This is an issue that was heavily debated following the 2016 legal dispute between Apple and the FBI over the iPhone 5c that belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The government wanted Apple to create software that would allow them to access data on the device, which Apple refused to do.

applefbi
In response to rumors over renewed efforts to build such a tool, Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi told The New York Times that weakening security protections in iOS devices would be a grave mistake, maintaining Apple's stance on the issue.

"Proposals that involve giving the keys to customers' device data to anyone but the customer inject new and dangerous weaknesses into product security," he said in a statement. "Weakening security makes no sense when you consider that customers rely on our products to keep their personal information safe, run their businesses or even manage vital infrastructure like power grids and transportation systems."

Apple has continually argued for the need for improvements to device security to stay ahead of hackers and other bad actors who exploit security vulnerabilities in iOS devices. During the dispute over the San Bernardino device, Apple refused to build a backdoor tool into its devices and argued that if such a tool existed, it could easily end up in non-government hands.

Federighi has previously spoken passionately on the issue, and in early 2016, he published an op-ed in The Washington Post using the same argument he reiterated in his statement to The New York Times. iOS devices, he said, are "part of the security perimeter that protects your family and co-workers." From Federighi in 2016:

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.

According to The New York Times, FBI and DOJ officials have been "quietly" meeting with security researchers to work on approaches that would provide "extraordinary access" to encrypted devices like the iPhone. Based on this research, DOJ officials "are convinced" there's a way to create a backdoor to access data without weakening a device's defense against hacking.

One method under discussion involves a special access key that would be generated when a device encrypts itself, allowing data to be unlocked without a user's passcode. The key would be stored on the device itself, in a part of the hard drive that would be encrypted separately. Only the device manufacturer, with a court order, would be able to access it.

Susan Landau, a computer security professor at Tufts University, told The New York Times that this would create "significant additional security risks" given that "so many more tech companies" would need to access these keys to comply with the inevitable flood of law enforcement access requests.

Talks inside the executive branch have reportedly been renewed over whether to ask Congress to enact legislation that would require tech companies to create a new access mechanisms for law enforcement officials. The talks are said to be in a preliminary stage with no imminent request for legislation ready at this time.

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.

Top Rated Comments

york2600 Avatar
77 months ago
A backdoor for the US becomes a backdoor for China and Russia in no time. No thanks
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deanthedev Avatar
77 months ago
I’m still amazed there are idiots out there that think they can keep a secret master key/backdoor...
.
.
.
.
.
a secret.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iObama Avatar
77 months ago
This whole Facebook thing has me really 'doubling down,' to use Tim's phrase, on my privacy online. Am I willing to sacrifice ease of use for privacy? I was two weeks ago. Now? I'm not so sure.

Suffering through ProtonMail (it's good, but it's no Gmail), DuckDuckGo, Ghostery, and meticulously staying on top of which apps have permissions for what.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
techwhiz Avatar
77 months ago
No compromised encryption.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justiny Avatar
77 months ago
Perhaps if lawmakers and government officials would stop being lazy and do their jobs, the need to hack into a mobile device after a tragedy/criminal act wouldn’t become the paramount necessity to conduct a proper investigation.

The level of incompetence is astounding; government information on all levels is leaked out on a daily basis, and they believe the public would trust them to hack into devices while respecting privacy responsibly? What about the devices belonging to victims and witnesses?

The precedence of this is terrifying. Not no, but hell no.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ArtOfWarfare Avatar
77 months ago
Gun violence issue? Instead of addressing the question of why the person was able to get a gun in the first place, lets spin this as an issue about encryption and privacy.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Apple car wheel icon feature yellow

Apple Cancels Electric Car Project

Tuesday February 27, 2024 11:05 am PST by
Apple has canceled all plans to release an autonomous, electric vehicle, reports Bloomberg. Apple has been working on an Apple Car for more than a decade and invested millions of dollars into development before deciding it was not a viable project. Apple's Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams today told approximately 2,000 employees working on the Apple Car that the project was canceled,...
iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

iOS 18 Rumored to Be Compatible With These iPhone Models

Tuesday February 27, 2024 6:31 am PST by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and thereby also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. The post was spotted by MacRumors contributor Aaron Perris, and it has since been deleted. However, this was likely because the...
Google maps feaure

Google Maps Finally Rolls Out Glanceable Directions

Wednesday February 28, 2024 2:07 am PST by
After more than a year since announcing the feature, Google Maps is finally rolling out glanceable directions on Android and iOS (via Android Police). The feature allows users to view turn-by-turn directions and a live ETA directly from their device's lock screen – information that was previously only visible when a phone was unlocked. Glanceable directions also work on the app's route...
iPad Air 5

iPadOS 18 Rumored to Drop Support for These iPad Models

Tuesday February 27, 2024 6:55 am PST by
iPadOS 18 will drop support for iPad models equipped with the A10X Fusion chip, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS and iPadOS updates. This means that iPadOS 18 would not be compatible with the first-generation 10.5-inch iPad Pro or the second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro models released in 2017. It...
iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Coming Soon With These New Features for Your iPhone

Monday February 26, 2024 6:08 am PST by
In a press release last month, Apple confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU, Apple Podcasts transcripts, and an iMessage security upgrade. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay...
M3 MacBook Air Feature

New MacBook Air Models Launching Next Month: 5 Features to Expect

Wednesday February 28, 2024 1:50 am PST by
The existing 15-inch MacBook Air arrived in June 2023, which is not that long ago in terms of Mac update cycles. However, Apple released the current 13-inch ‌MacBook Air back in June 2022. It is now the oldest Mac in Apple's current crop, having not been updated in 600 days. But rumors suggest that is unlikely to be the case for much longer. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple has...
iOS 17

10 New Things Your iPhone Can Do in Next Month's iOS 17.4 Update

Tuesday February 27, 2024 8:18 am PST by
Apple will next month release iOS 17.4, its biggest iPhone software update of the year so far, featuring a number of features and changes that users have been anticipating for quite a while. Below, we've listed 10 new things that your iPhone will be able to do after you've installed the update, which is projected to arrive by March 7. When the day arrives, be sure to check Settings ➝...