After the shootings in San Bernardino last December, the FBI recovered an iPhone used by one of the shooters. The FBI doesn’t know the password and can’t unlock the phone. The FBI wants Apple to hack its own software by creating a back door into the phone. No denying that the FBI has a serious problem. If it tries different passwords looking for the right one, the iPhone might lock down. The FBI wants Apple to create a new operating system that will allow the FBI access to the phone. But it’s not so simple. As Apple CEO, Tim Cook said in an open letter to customers, “Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.” See the entire letter at http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/.
WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS: The San Bernardino shootings were a horrific act of terrorism. Exploring the shooter’s call history, contacts, etc. might lead to some valuable information in fighting terrorism. But, the FBI’s request has too many unintended consequences. First, there’s a Constitutional problem. Tim Cook’s open letter addresses the First Amendment and security concerns which are, and should be, the primary focus. Second, there’s a damaging business consequence. The value of Apple’s brand is partially linked to the robust security of its devices. If that security is compromised, Apple’s brand could suffer. Third, the FBI wants Apple to hack its own security measures at its own expense, literally and figuratively. Apple will need to dedicate personnel and resources to create a whole new operating system. Fourth, once the hack exists, it can come back and haunt all of us in the future.