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Why an Apple victory against the FBI would be a win for all of us

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | Feb. 22, 2016
Putting back doors into any software, even once, is just asking for trouble.

Glance at Computerworld’s pages. Almost every day there’s a serious security breach of software that was designed to be as safe as possible. Now, take that same program and put in a deliberate weakness, a designed keyhole for a software lock picker.

Besides, why would you think the government can be trusted to keep secrets? My security clearance secrets, circa 1985, were revealed in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hacks. In the X-Files, the government covered up the Roswell UFO crash and implanted alien DNA in U.S. citizens. In the real world, they’re nothing like that competent.

Do you get my point? Even if the official decryption key is, by some miracle, kept secret and only used for good, transparent reasons — say, as in this case, the terriorist attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. — there is no reason whatsoever to think that these built-in security holes won’t be used by criminals.

My view is that, while in this specific case the FBI has a compelling reason to want Apple’s help in breaking into iOS, it is, as my friend David Gewirtz, the director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, put it, a “dangerous and far-reaching precedent.”

Amen. Let’s not go any further down this road. Ultimately, it will only lead to even worse troubles in the future. So, Apple, I hope you win. I’m not at all sure you will, but take it all the way to the Supreme Court, if you must. This issue is too important — for all of us — for you to surrender meekly.

 

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