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The whole story of the FBI iPhone fight only shows how right Apple was

The whole story of the FBI iPhone fight only shows how right Apple was

If someone really wants to get into your iPhone they're going to have a hard time. That's a good thing.

Credit: Jason Cross / IDG

Remember about five years ago there was a big to-do, a veritable brouhaha of an uproar, about the government wanting to be able to gain access to iPhones, surely only for our protection? You remember that, right? Your uncle on Facebook was yelling at you about terrorist-loving punks from Cupertino.

No, your other uncle.

Anyway, The Washington Post now has some follow-up on how the FBI pursued that case which involved the iPhone of a dead terrorist.

The FBI wanted to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. It turned to a little-known Australian firm (Tip o' the antlers to Daring Fireball.)

Would you be surprised to learn that both sides of this case, the FBI and Apple, have different opinions? No, it's true.

Five years ago, Apple and the FBI both cast the struggle over the iPhone as a moral battle. The FBI believed Apple should help it obtain information to investigate the terrorist attack. Apple believed that creating a back door into the phone would weaken security and could be used by malicious actors.

The FBI said one thing, Apple said another thing! Who to believe?! Well, don't count on The Washington Post to tell you, that's for sure!

After Apple very rudely said it wouldn't put the back door in iPhones for the FBI to use even though the FBI swore it would write the password down in that book it writes all its passwords in and keeps under its pillow, the FBI turned to Azimuth, a company specialising in cracking iPhones. (Not the screens, we can all do that.)

Azimuth is a poster child for white hat hacking

Actually, the poster child for white hat hacking is someone who finds an exploit and then gets paid a bounty by Apple for finding it so the company can fix it. Like Nick Heer, the Macalope thinks these companies probably do more good than harm by weakening the government's argument for back doors, but let's not exaggerate.

Now, let's Meet The Hackers!

Founder Mark Dowd, 41, is an Australian coder who runs marathons

Yeah, but it's Australia. They all have to run to get away from the giant spiders.

One of his researchers was David Wang, who first set hands on a keyboard at age 8

Age 8?! Do children even have hands at that age?!

Heer points out the Apple's only doing this for marketing slant of The Washington Post's coverage, which says fixing bugs will help preserve [Apple's] reputation as having secure devices.

Yes, having more secure devices will tend to, uh, persevere your reputation for having more secure devices. It's an amazing little piece of legerdemain. Hopefully the Justice Department will look into any antitrust violations Apple has committed by making better devices in order to sell more devices by marketing them as better devices. Very unfair.

This is the best possible thing that could have happened, said Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher. The vendor that unlocked the phone, far from being unethical, potentially averted a very bad precedent for Apple where everyone's phone would have weakened security.

The Macalope would like to see that quote verbatim because it makes much more sense without 'for Apple' jammed in the middle. Is it bad for Apple if iPhones had to have a back door installed? Well, probably, but it's way worse for people who use iPhones.

FBI officials were relieved but also somewhat disappointed, according to people familiar with the matter. They knew they were losing an opportunity to have a judge bring legal clarity to a long-running debate over whether the government may compel a company to break its own encryption for law enforcement purposes.

Legal clarity and absolute mayhem for iPhone users once bad actors figure out how to use a government-mandated back door to crack open iPhones like eggs at a Denny's during a Moons Over My Hammy sale week.

What did the government get for all this trouble after demanding Apple add a back door and then paying Azimuth $900,000 to get the phone cracked?

Nothing of real significance—no links to foreign terrorists—was found.

It sure is a darn shame the government lost that opportunity, isn't it?

The current system isn't perfect. It would be nice if iPhones were magical devices that could never be cracked. At least it currently takes a lot of work and therefore also a lot of money to crack an iPhone instead of just typing password into the government-mandated back door. Someone is going to have to really want your information to get into your iPhone and that's a good thing.


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