Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith is no fan of the FBI’s efforts to bypass encryption protocols in order to unlock smartphones. Smith’s thoughts on the matter were made even more clear today while speaking at the annual RSA Conference which is held in San Francisco, California. In fact, Smith offered his most blunt criticism of the FBI’s use the courts to get what it wants.
“When it comes to security, there is no technology as important as encryption,” said Smith. “Despite the best of intentions, one thing is clear: The path to hell starts at the backdoor. We need to make sure encryption technology remains strong.”
That is some pretty strong language, and further solidifies Microsoft’s stance on the matter and its alliance with Apple on smartphone encryption. “People will not use technology they do not trust and thus trust is the foundation for our entire industry.”
Microsoft's Brad Smith
This last point is one that Apple CEO Tim Cook has made time and time again — Apple’s customers trust that the information stored on their smartphones are safe from prying eyes, and not only does the FBI’s request to bypass a device passcode set a dangerous precedent, but it also opens up all iPhone customers to potential security risks in the future if such a “backdoor” made its way into the wild.
Smith’s latest comments come nearly a week after Microsoft waded into the encryption battle by “wholeheartedly” supporting Apple’s position to defy the U.S. Government. He clearly took note that any ruling affecting Apple has the distinct possibility of having implications on its business.
Smith also balked at the FBI’s use of the All Writs Act as a method to “crack” Apple. “We do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st Century technology with a law that was written in the era of the adding machine,” wrote Smith.
Just this morning, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell poured more fuel on the fire in his opening testimony before Congress, stating, "As we have told them — and as we have told the American public — building that software tool would not affect just one iPhone. It would weaken the security for all of them. In fact, just last week Director Comey agreed that the FBI would likely use this precedent in other cases involving other phones.
“District Attorney Vance has also said he would absolutely plan to use this on over 175 phones. We can all agree this is not about access to just one iPhone."
Game on, folks!