Congressman Darrell Issa took to Wired over the weekend to post his opinion about the conflict between the FBI and Apple. He’s siding with the iPhone maker, saying that giving the government access to the locked iPhone 5c will ultimately make massive data breaches all the more common. Even more, forcing Apple to create “GovtOS” would impact the online security of Americans for generations.
Congressman Issa is the US Representative for California’s 49th Congressional District, and current Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. Before that, he was the chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association and the CEO of Directed Electronics, which designs and markets consumer-branded car alarms and remote starters here in the States.
Simply put, Issa believes that the FBI should not be able to force Apple to create a backdoor in iOS that would override the baked-in encryption features. Such a move would create a “dangerous precedent” and haunt Americans in the future as they use their phones, laptops, and the Internet. Even more, the government could come back and repeatedly request the decryption of a number of devices used in multiple circumstances, not just national security.
The Congressman points out that the Justice Department isn’t just wanting access to the iPhone 5c recovered in the San Bernardino shooter’s car. The government actually wants access to nearly twelve other locked iPhones scattered across the nation, and they’re not strictly related to acts of terrorism. That contradicts the FBI’s claim that Apple’s tool would be used only for San Bernardino County’s controversial iPhone 5c.
“No one would say that Apple should obstruct justice or intentionally impede law enforcement’s attempts to bring perpetrators of heinous acts of violence to justice,” he says. “But a company also shouldn’t be forced to deliberately weaken the integrity of their own products and subject millions of customers to security vulnerabilities in order to do so.”
As previously reported, the FBI wants Apple to create a tool for accessing an iPhone 5c. Apple says this would be a version of iOS that’s void of specific security features, allowing the FBI to bypass the passkey roadblock, which will wipe the device if its entered incorrectly 10 times. The FBI wants to simply get around this and use brute force to gain access to the contents.
Apple and the FBI previously stated that GovtOS would remain in Apple’s hands in a special lab set up for the procedure at Apple’s California-based HQ. The company also said it would have to fork over dedicated workers to the task, which could take several weeks to complete. Thus, the tool in question wouldn’t be set loose in the wild, but reside within Apple itself.
There are concerns that even the government can’t be trusted with such a tool. Congressman Issa points out that the Office of Personnel Management suffered a security breach last year, resulting in the theft of 22 million Americans’ information. And just recently the Internal Revenue Service had a security breach, resulting in the exposure of more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts.
“As Congress begins contemplating revisions to the 1789 statue upon which this court order is built, lawmakers must be sure to protect citizens’ right to privacy and preserve the integrity of the online security protocols that help keep us all safe,” the Congressman concludes.
Apple, which is refusing a court order to create GovtOS for the FBI, plans to argue its case in Congress today.