Apple VP Pens Op-Ed Accusing FBI Of 'Turning Back The Clock' On Security

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the battle between Apple and the FBI over iPhone security, and specifically the iPhone 5c model that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple's position on the matter is clear—building a backdoor for the FBI to exploit would leave hundreds of millions of iPhones vulnerable. In an op-ed piece for The Washington Times, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said it's "disappointing" that the FBI wants Apple to essentially "turn back the clock" on security.

Federighi's position is that smartphones like the iPhone are more than just personal devices. Sure, they contain sensitive information like emails, text messages, photos, videos, banking details, and everything else, but they're also "part of a security perimeter." Cyber criminals who want to disrupt vital systems and networks like power grids and transportation hubs can start their attacks through a person's smartphone.

Apple iPhone 5c

"That's why it's so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department, and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less secure time and less secure technologies," Federighi writes. "They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers."

Those methods of cracking older security standards are even sold on the black market to hackers who don't have the skills or time to come up their own methods, but who are no less dangerous, Federighi says.

To be clear, the FBI wants Apple to update the iPhone 5c model in its possession with a new version of iOS that removes certain safeguards. With the security that's on there now, the iPhone would wipe the contents of the device after 10 consecutive wrong passcode guesses. If that limitation didn't exist, and if Apple removed the delay between passcode guesses, the FBI could brute-force its way into the iPhone and view its contents.

For whatever reason, the FBI didn't approach Apple privately about the matter, and instead turned it into a legal matter that's playing out in the public eye. Apple's fighting the initial court order that it assist the FBI with breaking into the iPhone, as it fears the legal precedent would compromise the security of all iPhones, not just the one in this case.