While speaking at South by Southwest, President Obama used a striking metaphor to make the government’s case for demanding Apple break into an iPhone used by one of San Bernardino killers.
“Because if in fact you can’t crack that at all, and government can’t get in, then everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket,” he said.
Have smartphones really made more information inaccessible to law enforcement?
Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick notes “there has always been information that was inaccessible — such as information that came from an in-person conversation or information in our brains or information that has been destroyed.”
What’s unique about this point in history, Masnick argues is that, there is “much more recorded evidence.”
Some argue that the government already has nearly all the information that might be on the iPhone in question and is pursuing access to 12 other phones that may have nothing to do with terrorism.
Cloud services, email and tons of metadata are all available with a court order.
In fact, we are speedily heading to a point where it might be possible that everything that we ever do is recorded or captured in some way or another thanks to the Internet of Things.
What if the government potentially had backdoor access to every smart device in your smart home?
F-Secure Labs Security Advisor did a quick thought experiment about what could happen if the government used”All Writs Act to expand FBiOS development to include wiretapping functionality of a phone in use. ”
He concluded that what the government’s proposing has huge potential for abuse: “…while your data in transit might remain fully encrypted, every device will now include the potential to be wiretapped unless you compile the OS yourself (or install from trusted sources) and maintain control of the update channel. History suggests that FBiOS wiretapping functionality would be too easily abused by multiple governments.
And the creation of a spying potential of this sort would be a massive prize for hackers.
“We shouldn’t undermine our entire security setup just because there are some bad people out there,” Masnick wrote. “In fact, that makes us less safe.”
These debates tend to circle around to the need to defend against criminals and terrorists, which is definitely true, and the fact that most of us consider ourselves law-abiding citizens with nothing to hide.
But imagine if you did have something to hide, something you were born with and something you couldn’t change.
“LGBTQ people around the world depend on encryption every day to stay alive and to protect themselves from violence and discrimination, relying on the basic security features of their phones to prevent online bullies, stalkers, and others from prying into their personal lives and using their sexuality or gender identity against them,” Cory Doctorow and Victoria Ruiz wrote.
These dangers are not theoretical for millions of people around the world, which is why we at F-Secure we stand with Apple. It’s important to make a case for the right to encryption now before it’s too late.