Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is Apple Thinking in Dissing the FBI?

We learn that Apple is refusing to cooperate with the FBI and follow a magistrate’s judicial order to help the FBI gain access to the encrypted data on Syed Rizwan Farook’s IPhone 5c. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were the Jihadist shooters in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. Is Apple aiding and abetting the terrorists? Is Apple being unpatriotic? Is Tim Cook willing to risk a patriotic backlash against Apple products? Is Apple just arrogant, believing it is above the government or the country? Is Apple a multi-national company, which considers itself a global citizen not subject to any sovereign government, such as the United States? Is Apple just being stupid? Is Silicon Valley bigger than the United States government? Perhaps some of the above, but in reality none of the above. The story is not what it seems at first glance. Apple has every right to litigate its legal rights. But should it? We know that Apple will ultimately have to comply if the Magistrate’s order is affirmed on appeal. Farook is dead and the phone belonged to his employer, the San Bernardino County Health Department, so it can’t be to protect his privacy. It’s to protect our privacy against an increasingly intrusive government. We know that the government can obtain Farook’s phone and text records elsewhere: i.e. who and when Farook has been in email and text communications. Indeed, the government already has that information from the phone companies. The government wants the information contained on his phone. Farood had stopped sending the info to the Cloud about six weeks before the shootings. Access to the encrypted information is password protected. Apple has a well-earned reputation for protecting the privacy of its customers and minimizing the risks of hacking. Its encryption software is increasingly sophisticated. By way of contrast, Microsoft’s Windows was known for its cybersecurity vulnerability, with constant hacks of personal computers. Apple stopped saving the passwords of its customers. The password program has an auto erase component whereby it automatically deletes all data on the phone or IPad after 10 consecutive filed attempts. Thus, the standard practice of using a computer program to automatically run through millions of possible combinations in seconds or minutes will fail. The FBI has been unable to access the encrypted information on the phone; it cannot get past the signon password. The FBI has not sought a traditional subpoena, such as for the list of calls or the info in the Cloud. Apple complies with those legal requests. Apple has provided the FBI the Cloud files of farook and his wife. The Magistrate wants Apple to turn off the auto erase function by creating a software program to disable or bypass the signon function. It is effectively asking Apple to create a backdoor for the government to enter everyone’s phone, tablet, or computer. The electronic companies have been resisting for months to cooperate with the federal government in providing the backdoor into their products. The FBI, especially, has become very upset. It believes the San Bernardino killings are the perfect opportunity to push its case for backdoor entry. It looks bad for Apple for it appears it is favoring a dead terrorist over the American people. Apple, Google and the other manufacturers are attempting to protect our privacy. If the comply with an order of the United States government to provide a backdoor to the government, then they will be at the mercy not only of the federal government, and not only almost any law enforcement agency in the United States, but also of any foreign government demanding similar access. Dictators and quasi-dictators will seek that information on residents they might suspect of disloyalty. Human rights advocates would be at great risk in many countries. The potential for abuse will be irresistible. Apple could thereby be effectively signing the death warrants of its customers if they allow access to the information. Hackers would also be able to access that stored information. The United States government in this electronic age has been known to abuse its vast powers, as shown by Edward Snowden, the IRS abuses, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi. No one’s electronic information will be secure.

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