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Apple: FBI request threatens kids, electricity grid, liberty

Software engineering senior veep Craig Federighi cranks up debate about that iPhone

Apple's opened another front in its argument over FBI access to San Bernardino killer Syed Farook's iPhone, arguing in a Washington Post column that creating even a single possible point of attack threatens national and personal security.

Apple's senior veep of software engineering Craig Federighi makes that argument here, correctly pointing out that compromising a device known to be used by an individual is a fine way to access data and facilities that individual accesses.

“Our nation’s vital infrastructure — such as power grids and transportation hubs — becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked,” he argues. “Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.”

Smartphones are therefore “part of the security perimeter that protects your family and co-workers.”

Federighi goes on to say that Apple works mighty hard to ensure its products are secure and asserts “Doing anything to hamper that mission would be a serious mistake.”

He then criticises the FBI's request for a special cut of iOS to probe Farook's phone, and others pertinent to other investigations, as “Once created, this software — which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones — would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.”

Which is where the op-ed gets a little bit hard to follow, because Federighi neglects to mention that in the Farook case the court order specifies the special cut of iOS work only on Farook's phone and that it be used only on government or Apple premises. Is Federighi therefore saying Apple doesn't think it can prevent hackers from penetrating its defences, extracting the special cut of iOS and adapting it to work on multiple phones? Or that Apple would be careless enough to make access to an iOS-cracker easy?

“We cannot afford to fall behind those who would exploit technology in order to cause chaos,” Federighi concludes. “To slow our pace, or reverse our progress, puts everyone at risk.”

Might misrepresenting the facts of a critical case testing important frontiers of the digital age have the same effect? ®

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