Wow. We didn’t see that coming, did we? Apple and the F.B.I. locked horns in court and when the Justice Department’s henchmen couldn’t get what they wanted in an instant, they got nasty. And what happened when that didn’t work?
An F.B.I. spokesperson, in the best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression a lowly paid government official could muster up, said, in essence, “We’ll be back.” Yep. That’s right. The F.B.I. wanted Apple’s unlawful, illegal, and anti-constitutional help to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone. Apple helped, but when the company didn’t help enough, the F.B.I got nasty, and when self righteous indignation didn’t sway public opinion, they decided to play a different game somewhere else. What happened?
Exit Stage Left, Pouting
In just a few short weeks Apple built a case against heavy handed government oppression, and built a wall of First Amendment right,s which then combined with public sentiment, and together that made the F.B.I. look greedy and incompetent. So, they did what any government agency would do under such duress. They quit. They left. For now.
Tuesday was to be the day F.B.I. and Apple locked horns in court, but the handwriting was on the wall, and the F.B.I. decided to do what was best. Fake, juke, and run. Oh, and on the way out the door, one last parting shot to Apple.
We found another way to get what we want. Your software isn’t as secure as you think it is. Oh, and we’ll be back.
Or, something to that effect. Regardless, this confrontation is not over; just postponed while one party sits in puzzled silence, while the other licks a few wounds and brags that someone ‘outside the government‘ stepped in to help. I’m guessing it’s not Edward Snowden.
Here’s how it works. When someone finds a flaw or hole or vulnerability in a device that can then be exploited, there’s an unwritten requirement, a moral duty, to tell the company in the middle what it is, ostensibly so they can fix it.
That’s not the F.B.I. way because government spooks work all day to find such vulnerabilities and exploits and they want to keep such knowledge to themselves. Don’t count on the F.B.I. telling Apple or anyone else how they managed (assuming they manage) to hack into the San Bernadino terrorist’s iPhone.
Unless the F.B.I. is entertaining an alien from the future to help solve crimes, this type of government intervention is not over. Government officials want what they want and will move heaven and earth to achieve their objectives, legally or illegally. It’s what they do.
Claims by the National Security Agency that it discloses the vast majority of previously unknown security vulnerabilities it discovers has been met with skepticism, because the agency won’t say if it uses them first.
Color me skeptical. Or else the vast majority of security vulnerabilities are not worth holding on to. That’s likely the case. For now, the F.B.I. is licking some publicly inflicted wounds while trusting in a third party, non-Apple, to open the iPhone’s locked secrets. The agency has until April 5th to explain to the court what happened, but Apple now knows the government cannot be trusted to work in good faith with the private sector, and you can bet that company engineers are working overtime to lock down as much of iOS as it can as quickly as possible.
We’ll be back!