iOS, your security and freedom are a Graykey area?
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iOS, your security and freedom – a Graykey area?

iOS, your security and freedom – a Graykey area?

Posted on 10th May 2018

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You may have seen the news reports in the last few days, telling us that the new update to Apple iOS will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for what our American friends call “law enforcement” officials to hack into a suspect’s iPhone.  Essentially, this new security feature will totally disable data being sent over USB if the iphone is not unlocked for seven days.  A good, easy to understand technical description of this is available in this article from Wired.

Of course, this once again raises the issue of where the line must be drawn between the authorities need to keep us safe and the individual’s right to freedom from snooping.  Keeping one’s data confidential is very important in western societies, but, as we have described in a previous blog, other countries are not so squeamish about blatantly gathering data from their citizens.

The article from Wired mentioned above makes the libertarian case well, but concedes that “It’s not a perfect solution, of course, but there are no perfect solutions in security.” On the other side of the argument, the Daily Telegraph notes in its piece today that “The issue became particularly divisive after it emerged that the FBI were struggling to access the iPhone of the San Bernadino terrorist.”

This really is a Judgement of Solomon issue. On the one hand, if the authorities have the opportunity to prevent further crime/terrorist offences by hacking into a suspect’s phone then that seems not only reasonable but desirable. On the other hand, given what we know about governments’ desires to know what we’re all up to, I am not sure I’d trust the police with any device that allows them to access my data without my permission.  Just because they promise they’ll only use if for the bad guys doesn’t fill me with confidence: someone will soon find a reason for extending its use to non-critical security matters and then we’re further down the slippery slope to 1984.  

However, what really struck me about the articles about this current update was the fact that they all mentioned a device called Graykey, devised by an Israeli security company, which takes between three to six days to crack a six digit passcode – at a reported $5,000 a device.  It’s suggested that the new Apple update will prevent Graykey being used by the police to gain access to a suspect’s device, but I rather suspect that, as happened with the San Bernadino incident, while complaining loudly about Apple’s intransigence, the FBI already were working behind the scenes on cracking the terrorist’s phone anyway, using the Graykey hardware.  I am pretty sure the security services will find a way, if they haven’t already, to get past the latest iOS update.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion


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