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FBI vs Apple: Should Apple Create a Backdoor for iPhone

Apple LogoUS department of justice has issued an order to Apple to help FBI unlock the iPhone used by the shooter in the San Bernardino case. But, Apple is fighting that request.

Basically FBI is requesting Apple to build a new version of the iPhone iOS (or a special tool) which will bypass several security features on iOS (including bypassing the existing screen-lock). FBI will then install this special version of iOS on the iPhone to bypass the security lock screen.

Apple has published a message to all their customer, and sent a memo to all their employees explaining why they are objecting government’s order.

Now, the question is: Should Apple create a backdoor to help FBI and other government agencies to unlock iPhone and retrieve the data? What do you think?

The following are few general points on this topic:

  • Probably Apple should work with FBI and help them to unlock only this particular iPhone used by the shooter. This should be done one-time just for this case.
  • The problem with the above approach is, if you help FBI one time, they’ll keep sending court order in the future to Apple to help them on several other investigations. May be Apple can’t say no at that time, as it has already done it once.
  • Probably Apple shouldn’t create any special iOS with any kind of backdoor. This violates all the security protocols and policies. What is the point of having a strong encryption to lock the data, when there is a master key to bypass the security and get to the data directly?
  • If Apple creates a backdoor just for FBI, and somehow if it falls into the wrong hands (hackers, etc.), everybody’s data and privacy is in jeopardy.
  • If Apple helps US government, probably other countries will also request Apple to help them with their investigation.
  • From pure IT security philosophy point of view, putting a backdoor can be morally wrong.
  • Looking at from the point of view of family members of the victims in this particular case, probably Apple should fully cooperate with FBI and help them out in this case. This is morally the right thing to do.
  • So far, in general, it was assumed that FBI or NSA can pretty much get to the data once they get hold of the physical device. This used to be case at least on a typical laptop or desktop few years back. But even with NSA & FBI’s big budget, it is probably surprising for many to see how they are behind all the security advancement that has happened in the last few years.
  • Several CEOs of big corporation are supporting Apple in this case; including Facebook’s and Google’s CEO.
  • On the other hand, Donald Trump is calling for a boycott of Apple until they cooperate with FBI on this case. He also mentioned that he has switched from iPhone to Samsung until Apple helps FBI.

Considering all the above points, where do you stand on this? Do you think Apple should create a backdoor for iPhone?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • GUNASEKAR February 22, 2016, 11:34 pm

    Apple should not create backdoor for their iPhone.

  • Ajeya February 23, 2016, 1:54 am

    Respect and support court/Govt request for security related issues.

  • sl0j0n February 23, 2016, 2:02 am

    Here’re some facts RE: Apple vs FBI:
    According to the news, the FBI asked Apple to extract the info from the government-owned iPhone.
    To accomplish that, NO so-called “backdoor” needed. BTW, A “backdoor” is;=”A backdoor is a method, often secret, of bypassing normal authentication in a product, computer system, cryptosystem or algorithm etc.”— .

    For Apple to successfully extract the info wanted by the FBI, here is all that is required.
    1. Apple would have to have physical possession of the iPhone the FBI wants the info from.
    2. Apple would have to have a system, w/ software, to update the iOS [iPhone Operating System].
    3. Apple would have to have a secure testing environment.
    4. Apple would have to have a software development environment, I.E., software to develop the iOS, and/or modify same.
    5. Apple would have to have a “brute force” software cracking solution [software designed to rapidly try all possible PIN codes].

    Apple ALREADY has to have at least 3 of these things [2-4], to be able to update the iOS software [iPhone Operating System].
    Once the FBI delivers the iPhone to Apple, here is all Apple would have to do.
    Modify the iOS software to change the number of times the decryption code can be entered before the iOS encryption system deletes the encrypted info.
    Apple already knows where that code is in the software, so a software developer can go right to that module, change the signin attempt number to 10,000 [the maximum possible number of 4-digit combinations], & save the new iOS version w/ a new version code to allow the iOS software on the iPhone to update itself.
    Using a hard-wired connection only, inside a secure testing environment [which Apple should already have, to test new iOS updates], Apple engineers/techs would have to update the
    iPhone that has the encrypted info.
    When that process completes, Apple personnel would have to run the “brute force” software cracking solution [freeware, freely available online, but Apple should already have their own version, for testing purposes] until the iPhone’s encryption is unlocked.
    At that point, the info the FBI wants to access could be copied & given to the FBI.
    Afterward, [assuming the courts won’t need the iPhone as evidence] the iPhone, AND the modified iOS update could be destroyed by Apple, completely neutralizing ANY ‘danger’ of a “backdoor” threat to Apple’s customer’s ‘privacy’.

    I hope this short lesson in ‘How Computers Work’ has been instructive to all; BTW, please don’t hesitate to share this w/ your colleagues.

    Now, as for Apple; BOYCOTT!

    Have a GREAT day, Neighbor!


  • Bob February 23, 2016, 2:27 am

    Why not take it to China or Russia and they will have it decrypted in no time. After all, they hacked and decrypted into the government systems.

  • Lucy Little February 23, 2016, 2:51 am

    It is the “old’ question of big brother is watching you. But the truth is if it were my family member or the family of any else they would be screaming for Apple to support the FBI. I think Apple has a valid point to protect citizen data. The question for me is why is the FBI insisting on creating a backdoor instead of asking Apple to work with them on the case and provide the needed information?

  • sri krishna February 23, 2016, 3:06 am

    Nicely covered both sides of the argument. Every company takes pride in the security measures they take to protect their consumer data which is in the present day worth more than anything. This is more a case of ethical dilemma and thanks to the over enthusiasm of the feds, they managed to reset the password. Well other companies will pitch in because sooner or later they will also face the same music. It is worth watching out how this case will turn out. A government who wants to control the whole world VS A company which is the biggest in the whole world.
    On the funny side of things Donald Trump called for boycotting Apple on Twitter from his iPhone.

  • David Bowskill February 23, 2016, 3:13 am

    The phone should be handed to Apple who would crack the security in the present of Government officials. No software should be given toteh Government in any form.
    The above procedure should be only undertaken if authorized by a Supreme Court order.

  • Tanque10 February 23, 2016, 5:09 am

    No backdoor from Apple for the FBI. They should be smart enough to pick this one up. Sorry for the affected families, but it’s the government job to investigate and support it out, not Apple.

  • Dahere February 23, 2016, 5:28 am

    I’ve not heard anyone address one simple fact – if Apple can access the data on the phone then it’s not really encrypted. The code required to open the iPhone is not the cipher used to encrypt it’s data, just as the password required to open your mac is not the key used to encrypt the hard disk (if FileVault is enabled). So, if Apple can decrypt the data on the phone they are hypocrites and liars. To get at this data they should have to use a brute force methods, just like the FBI, and that will take years assuming the cipher key is 256 bits. Apple is going to lose big on this deal. I doubt Tim Cook will be their CEO in 3 months.

  • SlipperySlope February 23, 2016, 5:43 am

    Security does not TRUMP privacy in this case because it will affect the PRIVACY and also undermine the SECURITY of the masses. The government is losing its balance between protecting/ensuring privacy and security of those whom they are supposed to serve. Case in point, mass and broad surveillance by NSA. Trust is a hard thing to rebuild when it is violated.

  • unknown February 23, 2016, 6:57 am

    It is something that has nothing to do with anything.
    Should FBI have that software? Well, if CIA, NSA and some others probably have, yes this is just a speculation, should FBI have it also?
    And whose privacy is here in question?
    From the dead person, who had killed some other innocent persons!
    In an attack that had made people define and change their idea how to look for one terrorist! And that is exactly the point Eric Snowden had, they reveal too much to common people of inner workings of those …
    It all make no sense at all, it is a joke to brain!

    Where is this all leading us, I am afraid any way

  • Anonymous February 23, 2016, 8:27 am


  • Deniz Gezmis February 23, 2016, 9:32 am

    Just get rid of those unqualified guys at FBI. They claim that they cannot resolve the case just because of the phone data (if exists) needed. Give me a break. It is just an excuse for their failure.

  • D.A. February 23, 2016, 10:35 am

    Apple should not create a back door. Apple should retrieve the data for them as it has done in the past. Which I find interesting….. that is, that Apple has assisted law enforcement in the past. It seems that very few know or remember that.

  • Craig February 23, 2016, 12:18 pm

    No, there are existing laws and rules in place. There is no need for a backdoor.

  • Saagaadaa February 23, 2016, 12:25 pm

    The history of the FBI does not encourage us to trust that they will use this case “Just once and then I promise we’ll never come back with a court order again.” It sets a bad precedent, which will put an end to privacy once again. Also, if they want to learn to spy on secure electronics, let them hire their own thugs to do it, rather than force Apple to betray Apple customers. My Linux is lame, but not my brain. Just feed the wolf once and the whole pack will be at the door.

  • Jack Wilborn February 23, 2016, 2:07 pm

    That’s just it, when they have a court order something and it’s acknowledged, then that “precedence” is set. What is so important about this phone, both people are dead. One comment about the FBI owning the phone, the FBI own everything as far as they are concerned. Don’t they have phone records, they seems to have everyone else’s. I understand there are leads, maybe, from what they want to what it will end up, say no to free access. As a retired officer with a city police, I believe I understand the problem. Most of this seems a waste of money. Apple needs to make one where no one can get back into it if the user desires that, even the user. This is where we have to go with encryption, make it not worth the effort to try and recover and machines that have NO way to access the data. Yea, you could brick it…too bad, but your data is secure….

  • Richard February 23, 2016, 3:01 pm

    I don’t think they are actually objecting.. not really. Think about it.. In theory they are protecting their brand and living up to the perception of technological maverick roots as revolutionaries. RE: Steve Jobs. It’s free press they could not BUY no matter how much they spent as advertising. Add another layer.. Should DOJ win the court .. They are protected from the majority of civil suits and seeing a president. It isn’t altruism, it’s protectionism. I’m not disagreeing with the call.. they win now either way and all the FREE stuff is ..well.. free.. At this moment they are selling devices because of the attention. Smart call on their part. support the nearly fanatic supporters they have, and convert some new ones. IMO this about dollars and that is all. Playin the media game .. there is probably an app for that.

  • bustaatt February 23, 2016, 7:15 pm

    Apple has complied to the court order and they have the info from the phone. The government wants them to redesign the software (iOS) and deploy and give them the key to spy on all phones. This is unconstitutional without a court order.

  • Kumar P February 23, 2016, 10:33 pm

    Sorry for the families affected in this case. I support apple in this case. Apple have valid points. How can company create own backdoor for weaken their security. Already we have lot of attacks from crackers. This will affect millions of devices on risk.

  • Sivaprakash February 23, 2016, 11:44 pm

    I would say, FBI should hire a hacker (Cracker) and pull out all the information. When Backdoor is available under request officially, it pisses off many.

  • unknown February 24, 2016, 8:00 am


    It is a very good commercial for an Apple, and very bad trick to make less freedoms to people.
    It looks like you don’t understand what is the real dill in this one.
    Creating one exception that is bizarre and then taking more freedoms from the people.

    Not worth even considering this as a serious discussion.

    Now, some people will just blindly go against Bill Gates opinion and work against Linux and some other things… Open source and stuff…


  • Edgar proulx February 25, 2016, 12:43 am

    I support Apple n n my freedom in America that I love

  • unknown February 25, 2016, 4:39 am

    Not even care to think about it, it is just one more example, what western civilization has turned it self into.
    It is beyond ugly and it has no real word in dictionary for it.

    People had way more freedom “than they deserve”, and not it is pay back time.

    They would like to bring :
    *darkness to my eyes,
    *silence to my ears,
    *deaf-mute to my lips…

    ..That is reason why I prefer Fresno over any …

  • David Bowskill February 28, 2016, 8:50 pm

    As previously said there is one simple fact – if Apple can access the data on the phone then it’s NOT REALLY ENCRYPTED. It is the PASSWORD which is unknown while the encrypting algorithm IS KNOWN. If Apple can extract the data, it just shows that there was no secure encrypting in the first place, OR that a back door was already present, presumably (hopefully) only known to Apple.

  • Seriah February 28, 2016, 11:41 pm

    Apple’s concern is only monetary. If the FBI can guarantee Apple that they will cover the loss of profits from the creation of an app that unlocks the phone + all the other millions of phones that are in circulation that need that app to work again.

  • Babita February 28, 2016, 11:51 pm

    Yes, Apple should help FBI. What is the use of all the technology if we are not stopping people from doing wrong things, if its increasing crime ? If apple would help, that would create fear in the heart of wrong doers and they would retard in doing such activities.

  • unknown February 29, 2016, 5:50 am

    Now it really looks like we should believe in some bed night stories.

    The things are going to changed big time,… it looks like…

  • Dhandayuthabani February 29, 2016, 8:30 am

    Apple is name of quality and security. If apple creates the backdoor. Sure it will loss it brand and customers around the world.

  • Jack Wilborn February 29, 2016, 8:34 am

    Sl0j0n is correct. The real worry is that it will delete it’s contents after a few tries. That’s what’s got the FBI concerned. If you could patch that anyone wanting to spend the time could get by with <10,000 entries (unless you have REALLY bad luck). Automated finger, whatever to externally punch them in. Even an Arduino could do it. How long, don't know, but quicker than me. Maybe all you really need is the developers kit and lots of free time.

  • Dave Korman February 29, 2016, 12:56 pm

    My understanding is, until about 18 months ago, Apple held a master key that could override iPhone protections which they used to comply with court orders. That left the protection in Apple’s hands, not in the government’s. It was then up to Apple to safeguard that master key, a reasonable solution, it seems to me.

    Apple went away from this protocol all on their own volition in what appears to be a mainly self-serving attempt to portray themselves as “protectors.” They should reinstate this protocol and Google should do the same in order to help eliminate at least some of the options for hiding now available to terrorists and criminals.

  • Dick Hoppe February 29, 2016, 1:35 pm

    I am not a big fan of Tim Cook, but I back his stance on this Issue. Since this court order came in to effect there has been a hearing on the FBI demand with no less than 20 other devices from other law enforcement agency asking for the same accommodations from Apple. How long will it take for the ‘backdoor’ fix remain a secret. If one were to obtain the secret fix for only a short term, he/she could become worth a lot of money by sell same.

    Apple has sold millions of iPhones based on the encryption feature. To provide a ‘backdoor’ that has the possibility of compromise would be a betrayle to their customer base.

  • Geoff February 29, 2016, 4:11 pm

    This a real 1984 question. How much data should a government have in the name of protecting us from bad things? Should we all accept we have no rights to privacy, just in case one of us is bad person? In this case Apple has a multi million dollar company that stands to lose a lot of customers worldwide, if they agree publicly to FBI demands. Look what happened to Blackberry when their phones were compromised.

    Think of the harmless things you do and say in private, maybe to your partner, that you would feel uncomfortable in public or if you where you are always under surveillance. You would probably have to live a very different life style. Knowledge is power and it may not always be used in your favor.

    Who would of thought a certain government knowing you are Jewish in western Europe between 1933-1945 would have been a bad thing?

  • Daniel Calloway February 29, 2016, 4:55 pm

    My position on this is simple. What the FBI is asking Apple to do will (1) result in a violation of the 1st Amendment rights of Apple’s employees and the management at Apple since software has been classified as falling under the “Freedom of Speech” provisions of our Constitution, and (2) will set a precedence that Apple and all other cell phone providers will have to comply with if the FBI wins its case over Apple should it go to the Federal courts. Apple can’t just get into the iPhone as the FBI is asking by creating a backdoor to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernadino killer. Creating a backdoor in the iOS would allow the FBI to get into anyone’s iPhone at will and without a warrant.

    If the FBI takes this to the Supreme Court they will lose and will look worse than they would if they dropped their pending lawsuit against Apple. The FBI should quit while they are ahead.

  • Wolfgang March 1, 2016, 1:35 am

    First of all: What is a crime worth cracking the security of other, non criminal people? In the moment they claim “just for terrorists”. What is a terrorist? There’s no legal definition for it. The British tried and showed with their attempt that their prime minister and the US president are terrorists. Is a terrorist somebody stupid with muslim background killing 14 people, but not an stupid ex pupil killing 14 innocents in their former school? Isn’t the result the same?
    The correct answer in the moment is: A terrorist is somebody which got this attribute by the government or any government body. The suspect is worst case deprived of any rights (see Guantanamo). In that legal question there’s no difference between the USA, Russia, China or the home country of my wife, which is Belarus.
    I’m not interested for the sake of unable FBI agents to risk my security or my trade secrets as a business owner who’s living some month every year in Belarus.
    If that iPhone is cracked the first time, we all know there will be a second time and a third… – of course for good reasons, FBI, CIA NSA, a candidate for president, whoever will explain us – and finally every country will be able to do so. Thank you, USA! You showed that your mental horizon is good for the US, but limited by the fence of your small backyard for the rest of the world. This was the last iPhone I ever used.

  • Daniel Reimann March 1, 2016, 10:19 am

    No, Apple should not do it if the company wins in court, which I hope it does. The government already has too much power and it is clear that this would not be the only situation where federal agencies want access. Federal agencies will only be satisfied when they can snoop into everyone’s everything as they so desire. That’s a very bad thing!

  • Jack Wilborn March 2, 2016, 4:36 am

    Some of you should read the comment by sl0j0n, maybe you would have a better picture. No back door here, in the common understanding of that phrase. The bottom line is the ‘got-ya’ when the device password fail, exceeds the maximum limit and the phone erases the data, i.e. ‘got-ya’. If you can modify the OS to not do that, there are only 10,000 numbers that could be gone through quickly especially with a hardware (USB) connection with a modified OS. Probably in a few seconds. These four digits are the only ‘key’, since anyone with the ‘key’ can access it… If they are forced, it will be the end of the iPhone. Don’t know what it will do for Apples hold on the market.

    The loser takes it to the higher court, so in all probability it won’t be the FBI taking it to the Supreme Court.

    If you can imagine an open hardware phone (scuttle but is that there is a Linux based cell in the works) driven by open software source. If they put a back door in it, you just remove it and recompile. This would shoot them in the foot. Another good reason for dumping the costly commercial product. Think about sending 1% of what you purchase your next computer and donate it to one of the packages of Linux OS. Just a thought.

  • unkonwn March 3, 2016, 7:14 am

    Well, could content of the memory be taken into another device?

  • Stars March 3, 2016, 1:40 pm

    No they should not comply.
    It will only be used to abuse.
    To Coin a phrase, “Stop the Insanity”

  • Jack Wilborn March 3, 2016, 3:49 pm

    I’m doubt the internals are encrypted. You are dealing with a password, just like your computer at home. When you log in, just like your home computer, nothing is actually encrypted. Most know you have to do it to each file with a password. The best and most secure it to encrypt your disks, then even physical possession doesn’t help you, with a 2K key or good encryption pass phrase. I don’t know what the survival rate of hardware like a phone internals, is when it’s removed from it’s installation by heat and mechanical energy. That would be taking a chance on damage and losing all of it. Depending on the chip types for memory, it’s conceivable that an external device could be clipped on the memory chips, bus tri-stated and then do a read. Any hardware manipulation has the risk of damage and data loss. History has shown that back door idea has always gotten out and security has failed. Hardware encryption devices are fast and have the potential of outrunning the ‘breaking’ of encryption via software. The FBI needs to take what they got and put it to bed. Somewhere they will hit a wall of encryption that nobody can help them access, then what? Jail for those who keep their passwords to themselves? Where is Scalia when we need him?

  • unknown March 5, 2016, 6:57 am

    If you can take the copy of memory from a device, then is just crunch time!!!

  • Zbyszek March 7, 2016, 3:09 am

    “My home is my castle” – why we speak in this way ?
    People wants to protect family and information.
    Step by step American freedom shrink.

  • unknown March 10, 2016, 4:23 am

    Well, ddddddddddddddddd…..

    then virtual devices ……

    and then ….

    not expert in this field but this guy is>

  • unknown March 10, 2016, 5:04 am

    If you like… I can talk different…

    Letter d is very important letter in an alphabet…

    Then you go to one square,… with your phone…. this two times….

    after that we consider some virtual electrons discussion and I do some errors…

    Then on the field of flowers one will open……

    Dany bring.. Ok you have …

    apple is … well you know

  • unknown March 28, 2016, 3:17 am