A Primer on Apple vs. FBI

What in the World?? | Nick Makarov | March 14, 2016

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Fordham’s professors have gone rogue.

As of late, a handful of my professors have deemed it okay to ask off-topic questions.

How about you stop treating the pre-planned curriculum like a rag doll and only talk about what was on the goddamn syllabus at the beginning of the semester?

Recently a couple of these wily professors have asked my classes to take a side on the “Apple vs. FBI” debacle. The result usually consists of some people saying “fuck terrorists,” but most people raise their hands cautiously after surveying what the rest of the class is doing.

This article is just in case one of your personable professors asks you that very question .

So this thing with the FBI and Apple happened about a month ago. One might ask, “Well, god damn Nick why didn’t you cover this issue sooner?” Think of me like the kid that won’t come to the party until he triple checks the lit-ness of the party with “how is it?” and “who’s there?” texts.

Let’s dive in.

Remember the San Bernardino terrorist shooting on December 2, 2015? 14 people dead, 22 injured. One of the two shooters was named Syed Rizwan Farook, and at some point over the last few months the FBI has obtained his iPhone 5C.

Farook’s phone runs iOS9, which requires you to have a six-character password. In addition, the phone locks after ten failed attempts. Like a suspicious girlfriend desperate to get some proof of her cheating man’s sexcapades, the FBI reached out to Apple in an effort to attain some juicy terrorist info.

The FBI asked Apple to create a new operating system specifically for this situation. This operating system would create a “backdoor” to the iPhone basically. Nothing good ever happens with “backdoors.” The proposed software would allow the FBI to bypass the iPhone’s security features and crack the passcode with “bruteforce.”

Cracking the passcode with bruteforce means the FBI would literally try every possible combination of characters until the phone opened. The special operating system that the FBI wants Apple to make would disable the feature that locks the phone after ten failed attempts.

The FBI wants a “new interpretation of the All Writs Act of 1789,” which would apparently let the FBI get away with a lot. Apple CEO Tim Cook was quoted as saying, “the government could use this to demand that the company build surveillance software to intercept customers’ messages, access their health records or financial data, track their location, or even access a phone’s microphone or camera without its owner’s knowledge.” 

Apple vehemently rejected the FBI’s request, and for good reason, in my opinion. Some sketchy shit could definitely happen should Apple build this new operating system.

Sketchy shit:

  • If the code for the FBI operating system gets into the hands of a cybercriminal, we’re in for a wild ride. Prepare for your nudes to get leaked all over the place. I’m not talking about the good ones with the perfect lighting either. I’m talking about the gross ones that are just way too aggressive.
  • Apple building the software would create a precedent for future dealings. The FBI could very well expect similar favors in the future if Apple goes through with the request. Also, other countries could potentially jump on the bandwagon and ask Apple for similar actions. It’s like this one time in first grade where I brought Ice Breakers to school for me and my friends, but a parent volunteer made me share with everyone on the playground at recess. Bitch.  
  • The FBI could have grounds to access phone cameras and microphones to spy on people going forward if they get Apple to build this software.

The issue is not unlocking someone’s phone, Apple has done that many times. The problem circulates around the possibility of a creating a mega powerful software with hella controversial implications. This operating system does not exist today, but it could definitely be built. There is indeed a loophole that would allow Apple to implement the newly created software onto the phone.

Think of it this way: A young Anakin Skywalker goes to Apple and says, “Hey yo, can you build me a Deathstar real quick? I just need it to fight evil this one time.”

That’s basically what the FBI is asking Apple to do: create a highly dangerous software that capable people could use to fuck shit up. Lots of people have chimed in on the issue, most notably, Edward Snowden. I’m a low key Snowden fan, so I’m quick to take his word as sermon. He believes that the FBI absolutely has the ability to get into the phone without Apple’s help. He said in an interview that the FBI’s claims that they needs Apple’s help is “respectfully, bullshit.” I’m all about respectful bullshit; tell it how it is Eddie.

President Obama spoke about it at South By Southwest. He basically wants a best of both worlds scenario in which Apple builds the operating system but only allows a few select people to have access to the software. Yeah okay. I want to stop taking my shirt off when I have too much adult soda but it doesn’t look like that’s happening any time soon.

So if you couldn’t tell from my feverish rhetoric, I do not think Apple should build the software.

But hey, decide for yourself. If Apple builds the new operating system, the government might get some intel on a terrorist and his dealings, but your privacy (you, yes you) will most likely be compromised going forward. If Apple doesn’t build the new operating system, the government knows a little less about terrorist dealings, and your privacy will remain somewhat intact. All speculation, but it’s worth taking a side. Also, I’ve referenced it a bunch in this article, but if you want to do some further reading on this issue, definitely check out this WIRED explanation.