As you probably know, the FBI asked Apple to help them recover the data from the iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino attackers, but they refused to help.
Ultimately, it appeared that Apple would end up winning that battle in court, and I believe they would have had the legal battle been allowed to run its course. But now that won’t be necessary.
The FBI announced yesterday that they were able to break into the phone anyway with the help of a third party.
Last month I wrote a post explaining why I thought Apple should help the FBI break into the terrorist’s phone, and now it’s clear (at least to me) that Apple would have been a lot better off had they agreed to do it.
Apple claimed that helping the FBI break into this one iPhone would have made all iPhones vulnerable to being hacked. But I don’t believe that was the case at all.
The only thing the government asked Apple to do was disable the “wipe” feature on this one phone so that all of its stored data wouldn’t be automatically deleted after a certain number of incorrect passwords were entered.
Apple could have easily done that in-house, then let the government use a brute-force method of their own to eventually find the correct password without ever actually “hacking” the phone’s encryption at all. But they refused to help with even this one simple step.
Understandably frustrated, the FBI started asking around for help from third-parties who might be able to help them break into the phone. And they quickly found one. The terrorist’s iPhone has now indeed been hacked, and the government has retrieved the data from it.
I believe Apple shot themselves in the foot with with their refusal to help the FBI in this case, and here’s why…
Now the entire world knows that the iPhone’s “superior” security can be broken. Even worse, it was quickly broken by a third-party, not the engineers at Apple who developed the security software in the first place.
Had Apple helped the FBI break into this one phone, that would have likely been the end of it. Miscreants the world over would probably have thought that since Apple created the security software, they and they alone could get around it.
But now it’s clear to everyone that Apple’s security can be defeated by a third-party, and rather quickly at that. Now Apple has no choice but to try to beef up the iPhone’s security even more.
But whether they can actually beef it up or not is really irrelevant since the public at large now has the perception that iPhone security is (and likely always will be) breakable by people outside the Apple organization. And that’s really bad for Apple since one of their huge selling points was the strength of the iPhone’s security software.
Bottom line: It does little good to win the battle if you ultimately end up losing the war. And it appears that Apple has done just that.
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