Apple has been in the headlines the past week, not because of the release of a new device, but rather for a court order that instructed the Cupertino giant to help the FBI access the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter.
Tim Cook himself has made a statement following the order and has refused to provide a backdoor to the iPhone, claiming that such a move could result in a ‘dangerous’ situation whereby the security of iPhones could be breached by other parties. It is now being heard that Apple has been working to ensure that iPhones can never be cracked and this security measure has been in the works even before the attack last December.
At the center of the issue is a troubleshooting feature that lets Apple install new firmware on an iPhone to upgrade its operating system to a newer version without the need to input a user’s passcode.
This feature is meant to make it easier to repair malfunctioning devices and hence the FBI demanded that Apple create an alternate version of iOS for the iPhone 5C of the shooter Syed Farook. The custom software which would be created with the government’s specifications would take away the security measures that are keeping the FBI from being able to hack into the iPhone in question.
Given that Apple is able to successfully take out the troubleshooting feature, it would be impossible to break into the iPhone, even with Apple’s official assistance. This could also lead to more legal battles in the future and add more pressure to legislators to who would be required to rule on whether companies like Apple can be forced to help the government in such cases, or not.
The primary concern for Apple in this regard is that the FBI or even foreign governments can use a backdoor into the iPhone as a tool in future cases, and that would seriously breach the security of users and put the brand name in a negative light.
The battle between Apple and the US government has turned into one of the most important encryption issues to date. Tim Cook, who continues to defend his position also referred to a backdoor to the iPhone as the ‘software equivalent of cancer.’ It will be interesting to see what pans out in the coming days on this much discussed issue.