FBI sponsors company to hack into iPhone

Published: April 14, 2016

Photos courtesy of wikimedia commonS IF THE FBI is able to hack into an iPhone, a student ponders, ‘what prevents them from hacking all iPhones?’

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / IF THE FBI is able to hack into an iPhone, a student ponders, ‘what prevents them from hacking all iPhones?’

Commentary by
JOE EVANS

According to the Washington Post, the FBI paid independent hackers a one-time fee to break into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the terrorists behind the San Bernardino attack.

The hackers disabled a setting on the Apple device that would delete all of the information in the phone if an incorrect password was input a certain number of times. Disabling that feature was the hard part. Once it was turned off, the FBI could use a separate machine to bombard the phone with password combinations until the device unlocked. The article estimates it would only take 26 minutes to crack the four-digit combo.

The method the team of hackers used to disable the encryption feature has yet to be revealed but according to the article a White House-led group now has to make the decision whether to disclose the back-door flaw to Apple.

In my opinion, this is a simple choice.

I don’t think the government should hand it over, not without a long conversation with Apple first.

After the long, drawn out saga that was the fight between Apple and the FBI, there is obviously going to be some bad blood and resentment on both sides. The FBI insisted Apple should willingly participate in helping them unlock the phone, while Apple CEO Tim Cook took a hard-line stance against it.

Many, me being one of them, believe Cook made the right choice by standing firm. I thought, and still think, that private companies bending when requested to violate customer privacy is a dangerous precedent to set. I personally applaud Apple’s defiance in this instance, but I think it would be naive to think it would come without consequences of some kind.

That being said, I think just like Apple was unwilling to share information, so should the government. Apple made the choice not to cooperate and I think the government should go forward on the same principal.

While not a huge fan of the government holding onto information that could benefit the public for no particular reason, I personally think that they have a right to in this case. After all it takes two to tango and Apple never even showed up to the ball.

If the government were smart here, what they would do is use this bargaining chip to their advantage. The opportunity to set a precedent of cooperation between the government and the private is alive and well here, just waiting for someone to take advantage. If the government decided to hand over the information, I think it could pave the way to more cooperation.

Now, I think it’s worth debating if this type of close, touchy-feely relationship between the two, that’s for another day. I think with the right rules, regulations and incentives both sides could work out a mutually beneficial relationship for the American people. Not saying it would be easy but it certainly is possible.

The government has another chance here to win over its long pursued paramour with an elaborate, incentive-laden proposal. Now it’s time to see if Apple is willing to put on its dancing shoes.

Contact the writer: joseph.evans2@scranton.edu

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