Apple versus the FBI – was this situation created by the FBI?

Anthony Caruana
22 February, 2016
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When Apple introduced iOS 8, it changed the way the data on the iPhone was protected. Most likely in response to increased action by governments around the world wanting to access personal information from smartphones and tablets, Apple changed the encryption model so that, once a device was encrypted, only the person who knows the passcode can access the data.

Of course, this went a step further with the introduction of Touch ID.

When Apple changed this encryption process, followed quickly by Google, it was widely criticised by law enforcement agencies for making the process of accessing data that may be valuable during investigations more difficult.

So, here were are in 2016 and the FBI has the opportunity to flex its muscles, through the courts, and have Apple comply with a request to ‘hack’ an iPhone.

The case in point is the shooting of 14 innocent people by husband and wife terrorists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.

As experts have reviewed the court documents closely a few facts have become better exposed and understood:

  • the iPhone 5c used by Farook was not his but was owned by his employer, the San Bernardino County
  • the data on the phone could have been accessed without the need for Apple to create a special version of iOS that bypasses some of iOS’s security features
  • Apple worked with the FBI from a very early point in the investigation
  • the FBI directed the San Bernardino country to lock the iPhone by resetting its iCloud password, and
  • Apple says it’s this step that rendered the data inaccessible.

Those last two points are critical – Apple contends that it is the actions of the FBI that have made it impossible to access the data without creating a version of iOS with lower security for use in this case.

This begs the question – has the FBI manufactured a situation in order to force Apple’s hand?

Given the choice between conspiracy and incompetence, I’d generally suggest incompetence is the more likely cause. But this is the FBI, and police and security agencies have been looking for a battleground to fight this issue.

It seems that they have found it.

The case has a massive profile in the US. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has tweeted, telling people to boycott Apple products. Ironically, he tweeted this from an iPhone.

A second motion launched in the courts has been made in response to Tim Cook’s statement that Apple would fight the initial request wth the prosecutors saying Apple’s response was about marketing.

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