Sunday, February 28, 2016

Terrorism, Technology, Security, Privacy, Apple and the FBI

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The FBI has requested that Apple help to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino shooters. I’ve been thinking about whether I could add anything useful to the discussion and decided the following three things:
  1. Neither Apple’s Tim Cook nor the FBI’s James Comey is a villain from my perspective. It is easy for me to believe that they both want safety and security for all of us.
  2. The collision of security, privacy, and technology brings out our passionate beliefs, and adding terrorism fans the flames. It is no surprise that this situation has become polarizing for many people. I believe, however, that if we intentionally stay away from the poles, we can have valuable discussions in the middle. I appreciate being a citizen in a country in which we can have those discussions in the open.
  3. I cannot add anything truly new to this discussion so I won’t be offering any analysis or opinion, at least for now. I’d rather watch as the situation develops and perhaps have commentary to offer later.

That said, watching the development of a complex issue like this one is best done from an informed position, so I decided to use my time to continue to educate myself and to curate and share a few of the articles I’ve found to be most useful on the subject. Those appear below. 

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Do you have other articles that have helped to inform your opinion? Please consider leaving pointers and links in the comments. I'm also happy to hear your comments on how this is just a matter of Apple protecting their carefully crafted brand and bottom-line, or how the FBI is using this tragedy to try to establish precedent for future requests. As I said, I recognize the polarization and understand that that's part of the valuable discussion, too.

Thanks for reading!


CNET, Sean Hollister
This summary and FAQ is a good place to start.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
In this open letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook points out that Apple regularly cooperates with law enforcement by turning over data that they have access to when legal subpoenas and search warrants are presented, but characterizes the FBI's current request as a development effort for the circumvention of security features, creating a dangerous "backdoor."

FBI Director James Comey
Director James Comey makes the case that the FBI must do all it can under the law to investigate, and recognizes the tension evolving as new technology becomes available to all. He describes what's being asked of Apple and says that "We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land." Comey concludes by saying that the tension "should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before."

Dan Guido's Blog (Guido is a Security Researcher and CEO of Trail of Bits)
This piece is a thorough and understandable treatment of what the FBI has asked for and what it would take for Apple to comply.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
From the article: "Ultimately, this week's order risks undermining the interests of millions of iPhone users whose device security would be undermined by the development of a new backdoor."
(Full disclosure: I regularly donate to the EFF)

Jeff Schiller’s Blog (Schiller is a Higher Ed Security pioneer)
Schiller discusses how the press is characterizing the trade-off as between the Privacy of the individual vs. the Security of society. The real trade-off, he says, is between making the job of the FBI a little easier in exchange for introducing significant security vulnerabilities in the core fabric of our increasingly electronic world.

Bruce Schneier's Blog (Schneier is a security researcher and author)
In his own words: "I wish I could give the good guys the access they want without also giving the bad guys access, but I can't. If the FBI gets its way and forces companies to weaken encryption, all of us -- our data, our networks, our infrastructure, our society -- will be at risk."

CNN Money
A very nice summary of some important coming dates:

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