Apple’s Craig Federighi slams FBI; says it wants to turn back time on device security

Apple senior VP Craig Federighi has called the court order asking them to unlock a terrorist's iPhone, as one that takes device security back in time.

By: Tech Desk | Published:March 8, 2016 11:41 am
Apple, Apple FBI order, Craig Federighi, Apple vs FBI, Apple San Bernadino case, San Bernadino case unlocking, iPhone 5c security, Apple iPhone 5c unlocking, Apple security, Craig Federighi column, technology, technology news Apple VP Craig Federighi has called the court order to unlock the terrorist’s iPhone as one that takes device security back in time.

Apple’s senior vice-president of software engineering, Craig Federighi has called the court order asking the Cupertino-tech giant to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, as one that takes device security back in time.

Federighi in an op-ed for the Washington Post wrote, “FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013.”

Apple’s senior VP added that going back to the security of iOS 7 is a bad idea as it has been since “been breached by hackers,” and that some of the hacking methods are now up for sale to attackers.

Federighi defended his company’s choice to protect their iPhone’s security, saying that a smartphone nowadays is connected with security of family and other colleagues.

His article says, “Our nation’s vital infrastructure — such as power grids and transportation hubs — becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked. Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.” 

But perhaps the crux of Federighi’s argument against the court order is this: that law enforcement agencies have admitted they want to apply this special software to “many iPhones,” which makes user privacy weaker.

In the end, he writes, “We cannot afford to fall behind those who would exploit technology in order to cause chaos. To slow our pace, or reverse our progress, puts everyone at risk.” 

Federighi is the second top Apple executive to have spoken out on the issue. Apple CEO Tim Cook penned a long letter to their customers as soon as the order was given, calling it a dangerous precedent, and explained why the company will resist it.

Cook’s letter said, “Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority. The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.”

Also see: Why Apple is resisting a court order to help unlock a terrorist’s iPhone

It says that the implications of such a demand are “chilling.” The letter reads, “If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Cook has defended the decision as the right thing to do. Apple and FBI then squared off in front of a Congressional panel on the issue.

Apple’s lawyer Bruce Sewell, told the panel, “This is not about the San Bernardino case. This is about the safety and security of every iPhone that is in use today.”

More on Congress panel: iPhone encryption: Apple lawyer, FBI director take battle to Congress

Apple has found support from other top players in Silicon Valley. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo and ten other companies filed briefs saying that, “the government’s position, if it prevails, will undermine the security of America’s most sensitive data, and that the law does not allow federal agents to conscript companies into defeating their own security safeguards and product designs.”

Also read: Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies file court papers backing Apple 

With agency inputs