• Kenneth P. Mortensen

    Kenneth P. Mortensen Profile

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English.

There are 13 comments on POV: Apple vs FBI: Who Should Prevail?

  1. iPhone and many other smart devices already have valid backdoors, namely, a fingerprint scanner or a set of camera and software for capturing faces, irises and other body features, which can be collected from the unyielding, sleeping, unconscious and dead people. .

    If Apple wants to claim that they are conscious of privacy and security, they should tell consumers to turn off the biometric functions. If the authority wants to have those backdoors open, they should tell consumers to keep them turned on all the times. And, security-conscious consumers should certainly refrain from turning them on.

  2. I think it’s misguided to think that this is an isolated incident. Should Apple give the FBI access to the iphone it will set a precedent and ultimately give the FBI access to any iphone they recover. Recently it was discovered that the FBI subpoenaed researchers at Carnegie Mellon to get access a method of cracking TOR. http://www.wired.com/2016/02/fbis-tor-hack-shows-risk-subpoenas-security-researchers/

    What would stop the FBI from subpoenaing Apple, getting the source code to the cracked OS and applying a gag order to Apple so no one ever knew?

    We have rights to freedom of speech and to ensure that freedom of speech is upheld it’s imperative that privacy is respected. If we don’t allow all citizens access to privacy we’re on the short slope to a Chinese like surveillance state (if we are not already there).

    On the technical side of things, “allowing the FBI to guess passcodes” is really just a plow to make it sound like they’re sitting there typing in passwords. What they’re asking Apple for is quite different. They would use a computer that can guess billions of passcodes each second and since the password space is only 4 digits that means there’s only 10^4 possible passcodes. That’s a fraction of a second at best. What they’re asking for is a backdoor into the OS. I really think that once this OS (signed by apple) gets out there, there’s no stopping the FBI.

    The real technical issue that Apple should prevented is to not allow sideloading of OS’s without user approval. If they had designed the OS like that, this would be a moot issue. No one would ever be able to access the contents of that iphone and we’d be all be more secure for it.

  3. Governments have amply demonstrated that they cannot be depended upon to be protectors or reliable dispensers of justice; nor can governments be trusted to safeguard our information, as perpetual lapses in security have proven. Edward Snowden has revealed the extent to which our supposed protectors will to pursue agency-specific agendas, regardless of laws. We have more reason to trust Apple than the U.S. government. Apple cares more about our security, privacy, and safety than those those who run the government. The director of the FBI, in an Orwellian bent, is trying to convince everyone that subverting personal protections is good for us all. Were Apple to enable breaking into personal devices would establish a precedent, where every law enforcement agency in the country would thereafter demand repetition of the feat, and provide means for them to independently do so. Engineering a “back door” into personal devices would be quickly exploited by the many hackers who have demonstrated technological proficiencies far beyond most government agencies, where the sale of stolen personal information has become an economy unto itself. Consider what it means for the safety of your family members if their photographs and information about them fell into the hands of violent criminals. These are the risks. Consider also that this is not the first time this battle has been fought: Blackberry went through much the same things as governments demanded encryption keys so that they could snoop on private communications. This case is just the latest assault on our freedoms. And this is a case about more than domestic terrorism: it is about far-reaching goals of terrorism. Terrorists know well that the greatest victory is achieved where you cause your foe to initiate lasting harm to themselves. It doesn’t matter if your shoe bomber or clothing bomber is inept, because it will nevertheless cause perpetual disruption to airport security in forcing everyone to take of their shoes or submit to body searches. The terrorists are now gleefully awaiting that back door to be opened.

  4. There is no single, independent, isolated case in common law. If the government gets Apple to unlock the iPhone, the country will have to live with this decision. Privacy is a blurred line and by small steps like this, we are losing our freedoms.

    On one hand we have the government, who with good intentions tries to uncover this investigation. There is no doubt that information contained in the iPhone in question would help the law enforcement. On the other hand, however, Apple stands against this breach of privacy. The company’s neck is on the line; its customers follow the situation very carefully. If complied with the government, customers might even lose the confidence they place on their “favorite brand”. Apple has necessary incentives to protect the information, whereas the government would like to subpoena all suspected devices. In my opinion, it’s apparent that relying on Apple’s standpoint, we can protect our freedom.

    Even though the advocates of government’s stance have presented reasonable arguments, it is still unclear that how unlocking this particular phone would help to prevent future disasters. If this case is an isolated incident like the article claims, the decision will not help much for protection but rather it will establish the precedent. There is yet no convincing argument why breaching freedoms “ex-post” of the incident is so crucial to prevent future incidents? By such an action, the damage to privacy might be much greater than intended. The courts should not open the door to similar subpoenas, requesting access to “suspected devices”.

    1. Indeed. The government is obsessed with ever more surveillance, regardless of value. The feds were well aware that terrorists who attempted the 1993 takedown of a WTC tower regarded that as unfinished business, and would somehow return to finish the job. Despite all the intelligence capabilities and opportunities that the feds had in the in the intervening eight years, they utterly failed to detect foreign agents taking large-aircraft flying lessons and then hijacking four commercial airliners. A further example of government haplessness was in fighter jets being scrambled — being sent out over the Atlantic rather than towards hijacked aircraft, because the stale threat response dictum was toward Russian attack.

    2. “There is no doubt that information contained in the iPhone in question would help the law enforcement.”

      I think there is serious doubt about the information on Farook’s work phone. He destroyed his personal phone but not his work phone. I seriously doubt (as do most people) he was conducting top secret terrorist business on his work phone.

  5. I have yet to hear anyone suggest the one solution that allows law enforcement access to the information on this one phone and protects the privacy of all other users. Law enforcement should give the phone to Apple who would then break the encryption at the company and hand the data over to law enforcement without giving law enforcement a tool that could then be used to break any phone.

  6. Take a look at the FAQ regarding the letter Apple posted on this topic http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/answers/.

    Look under the 6th heading:

    “One of the strongest suggestions we offered was that they pair the phone to a previously joined network, which would allow them to back up the phone and get the data they are now asking for. Unfortunately, we learned that while the attacker’s iPhone was in FBI custody the Apple ID password associated with the phone was changed. Changing this password meant the phone could no longer access iCloud services.”

    The FBI messed up big time, and now they’re whining about it. Dr. Mortensen, I believe how you portrayed this is inaccurate. The FBI is not asking simply for a way to enter passcodes repeatedly without the threat of locking the phone, they’re asking for Apple to create custom firmware to allow a computer to try thousands of combinations per second in attempts to unlock the phone. While the FBI may claim they’d only use this once, it could easily be reverse engineered if created, and with that, would allow the FBI and law enforcement to get into ANY Apple device they wish to, warrant or not.

  7. If you forget your passcode, you can just plug your phone into your registered computer and it will unlock it. If they have access to it, can’t the FBI hack her computer (if she has one) and use that to unlock the phone? There are other options too. But what the FBI is asking is to have a backdoor to all iPhones. That is a huge difference! No person or entity should have that power, and I am happy Apple is standing up for the right to privacy.

    1. Why should they? i mean i partly agree with that but still what if someone has a Nuke and might drop it on the us? wouldn’t you want to stop that?

  8. The simple problem here that seems to escape far too many people is that the government is attempting to define how the data is recovered and delivered. That is what Apple has a responsibility to defend.

    If the FBI took a phone to Tim Cook with a decree that says “get us all the user data off this phone that was used in a crime”, I guarantee they’d have a USB drive in their hands within a week. Of course, Apple have to get paid if it becomes a frequent occurrence and have to be indemnified against the occasional data loss, but these are minor issues.

Post a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *