Government Asks Apple for Encryption Backdoor in the Name of Security

Posted by
Jan 17, 2020
Reviewed by
Jan 16, 2024
min. read
Table of Contents

Following an incident in December 2019 when a Saudi national opened fire at a military base in Pensacola, Florida, the US government has been trying to make it easier for federal officials to access critical data for foreign shooters. In this case, the FBI is putting pressure on Apple to provide authorities with iPhone access to unlock data. This December case is part of an overall initiative to make it easier for the government to break encrypted data and gain access to critical information stored on technological devices used in criminal activities.

The debate over encryption backdoors

The debate over backdoors is nothing new for Apple. The FBI is now putting even more pressure on the tech company to take action and the two have historically been at odds over data-encrypted technology. The dispute concerns the role of law in technology. Ultimately, it is a broader debate as to what extent courts in the United States can play in gaining access to phones with cryptographically protected data.

Technology companies, and many consumers, feel that the government’s access to encrypted data raises issues over privacy and personal data protection. However, the government argues that having access to encrypted data is essential for the health and well-being of the public. Federal authorities argue that decreased regulations would allow investigators to access protected data that may be useful in combating serious crimes such as drug trafficking, shootings, and terrorism.

The complexity of breaking encryption

Breaking encrypted data is complex. Many devices, including iPhones and computers, are protected with personal identity measures such as passwords and fingerprint recognition. Therefore, it can be very difficult for individuals who are not authorized to use a device to gain access. Such is the case in the December 2019 attack. In that instance, authorities are struggling with unlocking critical data because one of the attacker’s phones is protected by fingerprint recognition. The shooter who owned the phone was killed by authorities, which compounds the challenges associated with retrieving data from the phone.

Furthermore, there are legal complexities involved in extracting data. Even if a third party can technically access data, they may not have legal rights to do so. Technology companies warn that there are no “safe” ways for the government to access data. Essentially, they would need to create a backdoor method of data access that puts other devices at risk. Relaxing data protection regulations for the iPhone, for instance, opens up the risk of cyber-attacks for consumers’ devices, including identity theft and other cybercrimes. That puts many people at risk of losing significant amounts of personal information and money spent on data recovery or purchasing new devices.

Lastly, technology companies view data privacy as a human rights issue. They say that their consumers have a right to buy their products and use them safely. Unfortunately, there are no backdoor access mechanisms in place at this point to give federal authorities targeted access to information while otherwise keeping devices safe from harm.

Compromising on encryption

Given these frightening statistics, there is no doubt that some degree of protection is necessary to protect data:

  • 50%: number of employees take their company’s data with them after leaving
  • $40 billion: damage caused by the two most expensive computer viruses in history
  • 7 billion: number of data records lost or stolen since 2013
  • 60 seconds: time it takes a hacker to compromise data
  • 7%: data breaches not discovered for a year or more

However, private users, tech companies, and the government are still working on finding a solution that works for all.

Protecting Privacy

Our SecureDrive BT products provide hardware encrypted protection without backdoors but with plenty of control. Admin users assigned to specific devices still have full control over the data with many options for customization. The admin has considerable amounts of control, including determining who may have access to the information. They can also set the drive to read-only mode to prevent others from altering the information. Contact us today to learn more about how our secure storage solutions can provide both security and control for your critical files.

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Laura Bednar

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