Apple Tells FBI to Share iPhone Hack, Says Lives at Risk


From Common Dreams:

Privacy advocates are warning that if the FBI does not let Apple know how it hacked into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, not only would the government be going against its own policy on such matters, it will be putting people’s “lives at risk.”

On Monday, the FBI backed down from its controversial legal battle to force Apple to develop a backdoor entry into the locked device of Syed Rizwan Farook—instead, breaking into the phone on its own, with the help of Israeli firm Cellebrite.

A classified bomb held by the FBI and unknown third-party hackers—but not by Apple, the one party capable of defusing it

Apple, along with numerous privacy and rights advocates, argued that the creation of such a tool would open a “Pandora’s box,” rendering all user-set security features moot.

That box is now breached.

Citing forensics expert Jonathan Ździarski, two digital rights specialists wrote Tuesday that the creation of an iPhone backdoor is akin to “‘a bomb on a leash’; a leash that can be undone, legally or otherwise.”

With the emergence of the third-party hack, Julia Powles and Enrique Chaparro say, we now “have a new danger: a classified bomb held by the FBI and unknown third-party hackers—but not by Apple, the one party capable of defusing it.”

Federal officials “have declined to specify the procedure used to open the iPhone,” the New York Times reports, while at the same time Apple “cannot obtain the device to reverse-engineer the problem, the way it would in other hacking situations.”

Fight for the Future, a digital and privacy rights group which helped lead opposition to the FBI case, issued a statement Wednesday arguing that if U.S. officials “really care about public safety, they must disclose the vulnerability they used to Apple to prevent criminals, hackers, and terrorists from exploiting the same security flaw and using it to do harm.”

The statement continues:

Encryption protects our hospitals, airports, power plants, and water treatment facilities. Sensitive information about critical infrastructure is stored on phones, computers, and in the cloud. The only thing preventing it from falling into the wrong hands is strong security technology.

…And it goes without saying that hackers, other governments, and those wishing to exploit this security flaw to do harm to the public are already hard at work trying to figure it out. Worse, the FBI has a terrible track record of protecting it’s own data. Just recently they leaked personal information about more than 20,000 FBI agents. They’re clearly not capable of keeping this exploit from falling into the wrong hands.

At the same time, as Guardian columnist and Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder Trevor Timm pointed out on Tuesday, the government is continuing to pursue similar, albeit lower-profile, legal fights. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are at least 63 similar cases pending across the country.

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