Former Homeland Security Chief Chertoff Likens Forced iPhone Passcode Bypass To Biological Weapon

We have been hearing so much about the FBI's pressure on Apple in its encryption fight in recent weeks that it might be easy to forget that it's only just begun in recent weeks. But what a few weeks it's been!

In the middle of February, a federal judge ordered Apple to break encryption on an iPhone that belonged to a terrorist part of the San Bernardino attack in December, and Apple wasted no time in defending its stance on things. In gist, CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Apple want to continue giving their customers a phone they can trust, and the government is working hard to cripple that.

Cook put it very well when he said, "Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data." He followed that thought up to say that the FBI is asking for software that doesn't exist, but as it stands right now, that doesn't matter, because the FBI wants to force Apple's hand at creating it - something that would set a major precedent we as security conscious citizens would not want to ever happen.

Michael Chertoff
Flickr: USCG Press

As you'd expect from such a high-profile case, this one has attracted folks from all over with wildly varying opinions - and sometimes even crazy ones. Some opinions might be too odd to read, but others are fighting the good fight, such as former secretary of US Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.

Chertoff apparently hates the idea of what the FBI is pursuing, and even likens it to being like a biological weapon: "Once you’ve created code that’s potentially compromising, it’s like a bacteriological weapon. You’re always afraid of it getting out of the lab."

While it's a colorful example, it's a good one, as when vulnerabilities are purposely put into software, it instantly weakens the security and that can have some damning repercussions. If the FBI can make use of a backdoor, then that means others will be able to find it, and likewise take advantage of it. The black market thrives on vulnerabilities like these, and if a bug was released that let anyone access a phone as if its security didn't exist, it could cause some major problems.

Amongst all of the crazy we see in the news lately, it's nice to see someone high up the ranks with a sensible opinion on the matter. It's clear at this point that we're far from being out of this, though; the next few weeks in particular should be very interesting to watch.