The dragged out conflict between the FBI and Apple has finally been resolved, as the FBI found an alternative method to gain access to Syed Farook’s phone.
Farook and his accomplice, Tashfeen Malik, whom was also his girlfriend, were the ISIS sympathizers that conducted a terrorist attack in Farook’s place of employment in San Bernandino, California, resulting in the death of 14 people and dozens more injured. The subsequent battle that would ensue revolved around Farook’s Iphone, which was recovered after the terrorists’ deadly shootout with police, leaving it in the possession of the FBI, whom sought to unlock Farook’s phone to see if there was any information about how Malik and Farook became radicalized. A problem quickly developed, though; the FBI, assisted by San Bernandino officials, was unable to gain access to the phone because they could not figure out the correct passcode, thus starting the battle between them and Apple. To get a hold of the information on the phone, the FBI insisted that Apple create software that allows them to type in an infinite amount of pass codes so the phone does not delete its material, but Apple promptly refused. Apple’s defense in the matter pertained to the privacy of all American citizens. The multi-billion dollar company claimed creating that type of software would undermine the privacy of all American citizens, asserting that once the software is created, it cannot be retracted. Eventually, Apple received a court order to assist the FBI in unlocking Farook’s phone; however, the company still refused and their CEO Tim Cook was adamant that they would keep fighting this.
In an open letter to all Apple employees, Cook, referring to the software development, stated: “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.”
The conflict would evolve into a national security v. privacy debate with the FBI and Department of Justice suggesting national security matters trump all other issues. Families of deceased victims in the San Bernandino attack and law enforcement groups supported the DOJ, while software giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft backed up Apple. With Apple not budging at all, the DOJ found another method to unlock Farook’s phone, but they have not revealed explicitly how they did it. Speculation has centered around a technique called NAND flash mirroring and an Israel-based company called Cellebrite, whom specializes in digital forensics; although nothing has been proven yet. Apple has said they are going to compel the FBI to reveal how they unlocked the phone.
What arises from the resolution of this issue is the scrutiny that Apple could face since another means of unlocking the phone was developed without Apple’s help; simply put, whether the FBI does or does not not reveal to how they gained access to the phone, Apple may face a public perception problem. That is exactly what Apple was trying to avoid by not assisting the FBI, but it looks like that decision may have been counterproductive in hindsight. An external agency or group unlocked Apple’s core product, sending Apple into an awkward position. The company will have to face questions about the security of their devices, something Apple was trying to avoid by refusing to comply with the court order.
Despite the perception problem that might develop from this, Apple is glad the FBI found another method of unlocking the Iphone.
On Monday, Apple said in a statement:”From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a back door into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent,”.
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–Contributed by R.A.