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Tech Talk

The FBI can take our smartphones from our cold, dead hands

3/9/2016

How far are you willing to go for security? Pay for the largest military in the history of the world? Suspend your right to legal protection and the Fourth Amendment?  Hand over your personal data to the government? Vote for Donald Trump? Well, if you’re American, the first half of these options you’ve already experienced, while the second half are becoming a reality with each passing day.tech 3.10

Big data has been a tech buzzword for a few years now, and it has been a privacy concern for nearly the same amount of time. The shear volume of information we hand over to private corporations is terrifying. If you’re reading this on a smartphone, consider for a moment the company that supplies the data connection to said device knows your home address, business address, social security number, probably all of your bank account information, your exact location at virtually any moment and keeps a database of all of your contacts and communication. Having all of that data in one location is not safe — not for you, your cellular provider or our nation.

But as mobile carriers are hacked and attacked for private information, oddly enough, the devices they supply are practically hermetically sealed when it comes to the information stored therein. Since the Dec. 2, 2015, San Bernardino terrorist attack, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been antagonizing Apple to unlock the iPhone of one the perpetrators. The very idea that the federal government can’t crack an iPhone is incredible when you think about it. With its vast resources of profilers, IT professionals, cyberwar professionals and hackers, the strongest intelligence community on the planet cannot figure out the passcode to a dead terrorist’s iPhone. What’s worse is this happens quite often. In 2012, the FBI famously couldn’t access a key piece of evidence to prosecute a San Diego pimp’s Android phone because his lock screen pattern was too complicated to deduce.

Tired of playing nice with lawbreakers and smartphone manufacturers, the FBI has taken Apple to court to force it to not only unlock the San Bernardino attacker’s iPhone but also create a tool that would allow the government “back-door access” to any future device that trips it up. Could Apple supply such a tool? Absolutely. Should Apple fork over an iPhone skeleton key? Absolutely not. Consider once again all the personal information you have floating out in the consumer marketplace. That data is locked behind virtual miles of firewall, and should it ever leak out, the liable company would have to recompense its customers to the tune of millions — maybe billions — of dollars.

Now consider your phone. Keeping the locally stored information secure is on you. Lose your phone at a bar, and if you haven’t encrypted it or at least established a passcode, any personal data loss is on you. But if Apple develops and releases a security bypass software or hardware and it gets passed on to nefarious individuals or organizations, all of a sudden Apple is the villain.

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If you’re an American citizen who gets protective regarding freedom of speech, gun rights or constitutional protection from illegal search and seizure, then you should be screaming at Apple to keep your phone locked up. In fact, you should probably call up your local congressman right now and demand an amendment to the constitution protecting the sovereignty of your electronic devices. Phones may not fire bullets, but the information you keep locked inside can be just as dangerous in the wrong hands. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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