Skip to main content

Apple VP says FBI encryption order 'puts everyone at risk'

Apple VP says FBI encryption order 'puts everyone at risk'

Share this story

As the legal battle between Apple and the FBI continues, Apple's vice president of software today presented the company's case to the public. Craig Federighi, Apple's vice president of software, is the latest to present the case for the company to the public. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Federighi argues that the FBI is demanding Apple "turn back the clock to a less-secure time," a move that he says "puts everyone at risk."

Federighi suggests terrorists may be able to hack your phone

Where many of Apple's previous arguments for encryption — including letters from CEO Tim Cook — have focused on more nebulous concepts of freedom and the right to privacy, Federighi's letter directly invokes the threat of faceless hackers. "In just the past 18 months," he writes, "hackers have repeatedly breached the defenses of retail chains, banks and even the federal government, making off with the credit card information, Social Security numbers and fingerprint records of millions of people." In addition to personal data, Federighi also raises the specter of terrorism, an argument used by the FBI in the case against Apple. "Our nation's vital infrastructure —€” such as power grids and transportation hubs —€” becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked," Federighi writes. "Criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person's smartphone." As hackers become more advanced in their attacks, Federighi says encryption represents "the best data security available to consumers," making it "so disappointing" that the FBI is pushing against its technology.

Federighi says the FBI has "suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough," and that "we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013." This is a bit of a leap for the Apple VP. The FBI has not tried to legally compel the company to drop encryption altogether, instead proposing a system that would break lockscreen protections once installed on the San Bernardino iPhone. But the fear is that once the government has such a tool, it will demand to use it again for future cases involving other encrypted devices — Federighi notes "law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones." If the tool fell into the wrong hands, it could be used by criminals or hostile governments to harvest data from stolen phones.

The FBI has not tried to get Apple to stop encrypting data altogether

Security is "an endless race" that you "can lead but never decisively win," Federighi closes by saying, hammering home the threat to daily life by invoking again the threat of shadowy figures intent on disrupting society. "We cannot afford to fall behind those who would exploit technology in order to cause chaos. To slow our pace, or reverse our progress, puts everyone at risk."