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FBI, Apple battle may leave lasting legacy

Maria Korolov | March 24, 2016
The FBI may have backed off from its demand that Apple build a backdoor, but experts say that a lasting legacy will remain

The FBI may have backed off from its demand that Apple build a backdoor to an iPhone security mechanism, for now at least, but experts say that a lasting legacy will remain in terms of the educational impact of the battle.

John Oliver's 18-minute segment on strong encryption for HBO's Last Week Tonight has been watched nearly 5 million times on YouTube since it first aired on March 13.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was on the cover of the March 28 issue of Time magazine, pledging not to back down.

"Through most of last year, I was surprised that there were Europeans worrying about privacy and Americans didn't care about it," said Yorgen Edholm, CEO at Accellion. "And now this has come out. Now it's a standard conversation when I go out and talk to people, and people really care."

This is one of the defining issues of the times, he added.

Never before have I seen encryption being in the public eye so much.

"I'm very happy that we have this discussion now," said Ebba Blitz, CEO at Alertsec. "It's in everyone's best interest to find a good solution. We all need to be protected."

It's a multi-layered issue, she added, since the encryption that can protect criminals from authorities also protects law-abiding citizens from those criminals.

"Never before have I seen encryption being in the public eye so much," said Rod Schultz, vice president of product at Rubicon Labs. "Time magazine, John Oliver — if you told me this would happen a year ago, I would think it was impossible."

The case has become an opportunity to educate the public about encryption and privacy, he said.

"I think customers and the public are becoming very very savvy," he added. "For me, that's the best outcome right now."

When combined with the recent memory of the Snowden leaks, he added, it makes for a strong argument against giving governments backdoors around encryption and weakening security.

And the battle over unlocking Rizwan Farook's phone was just the tip of the iceberg, said Harvey Anderson, chief legal officer at AVG Technologies

"We already have the attorney general in Manhattan stating that he's got 175 iPhones waiting for be unlocked," he said. "And the FBI has made this request from Apple a number of times before."

Local district attorneys and sheriffs have already said that they have other phones in other kinds of cases that they want to force Apple to unlock, added Sophia Cope, staff attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It's not just about Apple

One of the lessons learned, according to security experts, is that the FBI's attempt to pressure Apple into creating a backdoor has far-reaching implications, beyond just Apple itself.

 

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