Posted on February 2016 | Aziz Gilani

Security Pros Offer Opinions, Solutions for FBI vs. Apple

This article was first published on eWeek by Chris Preimesberger.

Chris Preimesberger interviewed several IT and data security experts to explore whether the government should be given access to encrypted data and what solutions are available to Apple and the FBI. The excerpt below is his conversation with Mercury Fund Partner, Aziz Gilani.

Do you stand behind Apple’s/Google’s position on this, or the FBI’s? Why?

I am pretty strongly opposed to the government’s attempts to get Apple to crack their encryption on iPhones. I think that demanding a backdoor to encryption: a) was opposed by our founding fathers; b) will inevitably be exploited by criminals; c) provides a new tool for repression by authoritative governments; and d) will create another reason for international customers to abandon U.S. technology companies.

As John Ashcroft pointed out in 1998 during a previous debate on encryption, our founding fathers actually had access to some very strong encryption tools with Thomas Jefferson developing a virtually unbreakable cipher himself. Despite knowing the powers of encryption, they never demanded that law enforcement have access to keys or tools to crack codes. He nailed the argument thoroughly when arguing against backdoors when he said: “The FBI has argued that a system of mandatory access would make it easier for law enforcement to do its job. Of course it would, but it would also make things easier on law enforcement if we simply repealed the fourth amendment.”

What solution to this data privacy problem would you put forth if you were a mediator in this dispute?

As we learned through Snowden, Manning, and the OPM [U.S. Office of Personnel Management] hacks, the government is terrible at securing data. The private sector is no better as we learn almost daily with various data breaches and hacks. Do we seriously think that a universal backdoor to the data on any data device will go undiscovered? If you do, I also have a bridge I want to sell you.

Is it possible to isolate that iPhone and just have Apple get the data from it and send it to the FBI so that no backdoors are involved?

Once Apple implements a backdoor to the iPhone, foreign governments will also demand access to encrypted information on their seized iPhones. Even if you completely trust the U.S. government, how do you feel about the Chinese, Russian, Iranian, or Syrian governments having the power to access encrypted data from their citizens?

As we learned during the Snowden revelations, foreign companies don’t trust our government and switched away from American technology companies when their cooperation with the NSA was exposed. Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Intel and Hewlett-Packard were all impacted and lost key accounts.

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