The dispute between Apple and the FBI has come to a conclusion. The FBI wanted to break into the San Bernadino gunman’s phone, but couldn’t because of Apple’s protection system. The FBI demanded that Apple break it open, or create a “backdoor”. Numerous privacy advocates immediately saw just how horrible the FBI request was and launched into an international campaign to stop to stop the FBI (EFF, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press, HuffingtonPost, SaveSecurity). The problems were that if one person could break into an iPhone, then every single iPhone can also be hacked. Since every single iPhone shares the same security features, all iPhones are now vulnerable. The BBC news has announced that the FBI got a private Isreali company to find a way to break into iPhones (BBC, Fight for the Future).
The FBI claimed that only they will have access to this technology and method of getting into iPhones, so we should trust them. This is still wrong-headed thinking. It is still true that now all iPhones are vulnerable, and now there are threats to our security (EFF, NYTimes, Vice). Now repressive governments know two things: It is ok to intrude on people’s privacy, and that iPhones can be broken into. Criminals now know two things: iPhones can be broken into, and it took a security company a week or so to do it. Security companies know two things, iPhones can be broken into, and governments (and criminals) are willing to pay.
Being able to break into an iPhone has major repercussions. Firstly, the FBI, other government organisations, rogue individuals with authorised access behaving improperly, and criminals, can access everything. That means, your emails, photos, iCloud, your contacts list, your calendar, your social media accounts (Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, etc), all of your apps, and more. If they can access your email, they can change your email access and social media passwords, locking you out. Your whole digital life can be either hijacked or deleted. The flip side is, it’s also now possible for police to plant evidence on your digital life. Police do act illegally, which is why there are internal affairs units set up to catch police acting badly. Also, repressive governments can act against human rights (BBC), including targeting and jailing people who oppose an unpopular government action. Criticism of the Abe administration has already had a few Japanese journalists fired.
May be not today or tomorrow, unless Apple upgrades their iPhone security immediately there will be two major problems. Firstly, the prospects of sales of the new, yet to be released, iPhone SE is now in jeopardy. The phone itself seems amazing, and I really needed to upgrade, and this was probably it. However now, I’ve been creeped out by the FBI’s actions, and so I won’t be buying one. How much loss of revenue will Apple suffer in the short term now? Secondly, who will want to buy an iPhone or iMac in the future now that trust in Apple and the American government isn’t just tarnished, but destroyed?