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Top 10 Need to Know FBI vs Apple Facts

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris It's one of the foremost social debates of the modern world, currently centered on a legal battle between tech giants Apple and the FBI: but the question remains, should national security trump personal privacy? Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. Join as we count 10 crucial facts you should know about the situation between Apple and the FBI.

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Top 10 Need to Know FBI vs Apple Facts

It’s one of the foremost social debates of the modern world, currently centered on a legal battle between tech giants Apple and the FBI: but the question remains, should national security trump personal privacy? Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this installment, we’re counting down 10 crucial factsyou should know about the situation between Apple and the FBI.

#10: What Is the Current Situation Between the FBI & Apple?
The Demands

As part of the investigation into the San Bernardino terror attack that took place in late 2015, the FBI requested that Apple create software to enable authorities to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the perpetrators of the massacre, Syed Rizwan Farook. Without Apple’s cooperation, Farook’s phone is almost impossible to hack due to increased security, which Apple offers as a standard. While the FBI says that their gaining access to Farook’s device is a matter of national security, Apple argues that to unlock the phone would undo years of technological progress for personal privacy.

#9: What Instigated the FBI’s Demand?
The Attack

The San Bernardino terror attack occurred on December 2nd 2015 at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino, California. 14 people were killed and a further 24 injured as part of a mass shooting and attempted bomb attack carried out by married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Both Farook and Malik were killed later in the day during a shootout with police, and both were lawful U.S. residents. That’s one reason why the case has been labeled as an example of ‘home-grown terrorism’ in America. The majority of those killed in the attack were county officials, in what was the second-deadliest mass shooting in California’s history and the worst terror attack in the United States since 9/11. In a statement dated February 21st, 2016, FBI director James Comey explained that the FBI wanted the chance to seek justice for the victims and, possibly, locate terrorists associated with the perpetrators of this attack, and that without such a solution the government organization has been failing in terms of its intelligence gathering efforts.

#8: How Did Apple & Silicon Valley React to the Demand?
The Refusal

Apple opposed the order to override security on Farook’s phone, and received backing from some of the tech world’s most influential names. For CEO Tim Cook, the FBI is asking Apple to ‘undermine decades of security advancements.’ Cook says in an open letter; ‘In the wrong hands, this software – which does not exist today – would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,’ before suggesting that the FBI is trying to force ‘a backdoor to the iPhone.’ The worry is that if Apple decrypts one phone, that will weaken the legitimacy of security on all devices, and potentially the internet as a whole. For Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the move ‘could be a troubling precedent’, while Facebook and Twitter have also supported Apple’s stance.

#7: What Does the FBI Want from Apple?
The Loopholes

The FBI is not simply ordering Apple to unlock Farook’s device; they are requesting that Apple make it easier for authorities to hack the phone themselves with the development of a new version of their iOS operating system that’s free of certain security protections. This is an extension of an even bigger issue that’s cropped up between the FBI and Apple over the previous couple of years, where the FBI requested that the tech company build a backdoor into the software of all iPhones that would allow the government to access data on any device they wish – regardless of whether or not that data was encrypted. Apple altered its software in 2014, shortly after the much-publicized celebrity photo hack and the revelations brought forth by whistleblower Edward Snowden, to ensure that they couldn’t gain access to sensitive customer data. But the FBI is trying to exploit a loophole that Appleleft open: it says that Apple cannot unlock the phone or decrypt the data without user approval, but nowhere does it say that the government can’t do it. ShouldApple comply with the bureau and grant easier access, unlocking the device would remain a task for the FBI to carry out – and, depending, upon the strength of Farook’s basic password, decoding could still take years to complete.

#6: What Are the Current Security Measures on iPhones?
The Passwords

iPhone security altered drastically in 2014, as Apple made sure that all device data was encrypted by default, making it impossible for the company themselves to bypass customer passwords. Any device running iOS8 software or later is subject to the same security feature that the FBI is trying to overcome. It has two main functions to protect against brute-force attacks the likes of which authorities are looking to mount. Firstly, there’s an 80-millisecond time delay between any two-password attempts – which may sound small, but it can make the decryption process significantly longer. Secondly, there’s an auto-erase feature that activates after just 10 unsuccessful password attempts; once it’s enabled, device data becomes permanently inaccessible.

#5: How Feasible Are Their Demands?
The Creation

Should Apple do as the FBI has ordered, it would require a huge rewrite of the existing operating system, and this – to some – would be a potentially dangerous backward step for the tech world. Although the new, more vulnerable software would only be required for the isolated San Bernardino phone, there are implications for every single iPhone user on the planet. Because, even if the FBI’s demands are feasible, Apple doesn’t want them to appear so. If the company assists in the decryption of Farook’s phone then they prove that Apple security is navigable, and undermines their own brand.

#4: What Are the Security Ramifications?
The Governments

Once Apple proves that iOS security is passable, and relents for the first time over issues concerning password protection, their much-feared proverbial ‘backdoor’ opens. In theory, governments and organizations across the world will look to follow the FBI – if they’re not already doing so. With the right funding and manpower, governments may even be able to negotiate Apple security without help from the company at all. Smart phones are among our most personal and intimate possessions, so the potential for invasions of privacy in the future is huge.

#3: Who Else Could Unlock the iPhone If Apple Doesn’t?
The Challenge

Though Apple continues to claim even they can’t unlock a customer’s phone, the situation has provoked some third parties to suggest that the security is breakable. John McAfee, the anti-virus software creator, is perhaps the most prominent voice casting Apple’s security into doubt. Although he agrees thatApple should not create a backdoor to be utilized by the government, McAfee said that he would decrypt the San Bernardino iPhone ‘free of charge,’ claiming it would take his team just ‘three weeks’ to do so. McAfee’s claims have been met with skepticism, however, as security expert Graham Cluley explained to the BBC. ‘The iPhone is notoriously difficult to hack,’ Cluley said, ‘good luck to Mr McAfee trying to socially engineer a corpse into revealing its pass-code.’

#2: Can Apple Secure Future Phones?
The Adaptations

If Apple does give in to the FBI, however, iPhone security is not irreparably tarnished. Future updates will be written into the software, likely with security measures to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t occur again. It might be expected, for example, that Apple would make it more difficult for any type of software to be put onto an iPhone without user permission first. But, the law is likely to change with technology as well, especially if the authorities defeatApple in this instance, and gain an edge in the debate. Essentially, future iPhones will technically be more secure, but also more prone to governmental control.

#1: Who Will Win This Fight?
The Future

It’s difficult to predict who will emerge victorious from this battle. On the one hand, Apple is arguably the most influential consumer company in the world, and it’s arguing for the right to personal privacy, which is universally important. However, they’re fighting against what can justifiably be seen as a serious matter of security and civilian safety. In this one instance, the information retained on the San Bernardino device could prove crucial in America’s ongoing effort against terrorism; but once one iPhone has been unlocked, how many more will follow? As two juggernauts collide, one thing is certain: the issue will not go away. Onlookers can expect this socially sensitive fight to rumble on for some time.

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