It would have been Steve Jobs’ 61st birthday yesterday and had he been alive to see it, it would have been interesting to watch him approach the ongoing legal battle around iPhone encryption.
In his absence, Tim Cook used a slot on ABC with David Muir to explain, in terms we can all understand, what he believes the FBI is asking Apple to do.
This is not about one phone, this is about the future. Can the government compel Apple to write software that we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world, including the US? The only way we know would be to write a piece of software that we view as the software equivalent of cancer.
If we knew a way to get the information on the phone that we haven’t already given, if we knew a way to do this that would not expose hundreds of millions of other people, we would obviously do it… If a court compels Apple to write this piece of software, to place a backdoor in the iPhone, we believe it does put hundreds of millions of customers at risk.
Cook said he is sympathetic to the families of the 14 people killed in San Bernardino but explained that the “new operating system” that Apple would be forced to create in order to help the FBI would be “very dangerous.”
There’s probably more information about you on your phone than there is in your house. Our smartphones are loaded with our intimate conversations, our financial data, our health records. They’re also loaded with the location of our kids in many cases and so it’s not just about privacy, it’s also about public safety.
… In a perfect world where none of the implications I’m talking about exist, yes we would do it. We would obviously do it. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Some things are hard and some things are right and some things are both and this is one of those things.
Meanwhile, according to reports in The New York Times, Apple has already begun working on both hardware and software updates that would make its products “impossible” to crack in the future.
This could include an attempt to fix the vulnerability in iCloud that ultimately leaves the encryption keys with Apple. At present, this gives law enforcers the right to request and gain access to certain data, which already happened in the San Bernardino case.
Apple is also considering how it can lock even itself out of its iPhones so it can say – unequivocally – that it can’t help law enforcers, even if it wants to. Any changes made to iPhone hardware would likely render older devices obsolete, security-wise.