APPLE vs FBI
The US magistrate, Sheri Pym has ordered Apple to unlock an iPhone 5C which was used by Syed Farook who is one of the two terrorists who killed 14 people at a party in San Bernardino, California. Apple, who was cooperating with FBI to help the agency to access the data on Farook’s work phone has refused to follow this order. Cook has an argument that bypassing the password would mean producing a backdoor in its iOS operating system which could be used to access every other iPhone.
The FBI needs to know with whom Farook was communicating with & which websites he may have visited in the days leading up to the December 2 massacre. The access to the computers & personal mobiles owned by Farook & his wife would help but the couple smashed their personal phones & removed the hard drive from the computer.
Farook’s iPhone 5C which was given to him by the employers at San Bernardino County in southern California might be one of their last options. Apple’s lowest-price phone, starting at 99 dollars on a contract was introduced in 2003. Though it has initially came in models with up to 32 GB of storage, Farook had the least expensive model which was an 8GB version which was often given away for free with a paid, two year wireless contract.
Apple was only able to give FBI the backups upto October 19, when Farook apparently stopped backing up phone which leaves one & a half month gap in the data between October 19 & December 2 when the massacre took place. The FBI thinks that Farook may have intentionally stopped the automatic backup in order to hide something.
The phone is locked with a passcode. The FBI doesn’t have the passcode & neither does Apple have that. The passcode is saved only on the device itself. Because of Apple’s built in security, we have up to 10 attempts to enter a passcode. After which, the iPhone wipes itself i.e. it removes all the data saved on the device. Farook’s iPhone was set to automatically washout itself after ten wrong passcodes were entered in a row which is a common enabled feature on phones based on work issues.
The court orders say that Apple has to make a new custom version of iOS which runs only on this specific iPhone & which makes three changes to the software. The first two transformations will bypass and disable the auto wipe function & the delay which limits how quickly a new passcode can be entered. The court also asks Apple to add a way to attach a cable or wireless connection to the iPhone so that the FBI can automatically enter the passcodes. This way, the FBI can utilise a supercomputer to bombard the phone with the passcode guesses till the time it finds a right one.
The Apple CEO, Cook has argued that Apple cannot just bypass these protections for a single phone & expect other phones to be still safe & secure. Once built, the technique can beutilised over & over again on a number of devices. In the virtual world, it will be equivalent to a master key which is capable to open hundreds of millions of locks.