Cyber-security is back in the headlines, and if you think it doesn’t affect you, think again, says Deirdre Brennan
This week a judge in California ruled that Apple must ‘unlock’ an iPhone used by one of the two gunmen who killed fourteen people in San Bernardino, California, in December. Apple is refusing to comply with the order, arguing that if the company created such software, all iPhones and other similar devices would become vulnerable to hackers.
“Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” wrote Cook in a message to Apple’s customers last week.
Many have criticized Cook’s refusal to comply with the judge’s ruling, including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (‘Who do they think they are?’ said Trump), as well as every right-wing television pundit in the United States who is arguing that if hacking an iPhone saves one life, it is worth it. These goons are missing the point entirely.
Smart phones are not merely phones, they are computers that most of us have come to rely on to conduct business, transfer money, trade stocks, take photos and store all types of personal data. As someone who had her phone stolen a few years ago, I know first hand how distressing it is for a stranger to get his or her hands on your personal data. At the time, my phone was not password protected and hundreds of my contacts—including many of my high-level sources in the hedge fund industry—received malicious emails from the thief. Thankfully, it was fairly obvious the messages weren’t from me (the perpetrator had terrible grammar), and at that point my phone was not ‘smart’ enough to contain any other data.
Now, imagine for a moment that Apple does create a master key capable of unlocking any iPhone. While it may give this crack-code to a few US government officials, how long do you think it will be before that tech guy in the Pentagon making $95,000 a year smuggles it out on a hard-drive and sells it to Russian hackers or the Chinese government? Think this is a far fetched scenario? If Edward Snowden can steal hundreds of thousands of classified documents and leak them to the public, then some clever techie can surely grab some code.
Hopefully Apple will stand firm with its decision to refuse to hack its own customers, otherwise, all of us will be at risk, and this time, it won’t stop at our contacts getting a few rude emails.
Deirdre Brennan is the founder of hedge fund and private equity news provider Finalternatives