Monday, February 22, 2016

The importance of information security

There's not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said about the legal battle currently raging between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple. My personal opinion is that it's probably the single most important case of the decade, and not nearly enough people are paying attention to it.

It's a shame, because this absolutely will affect the privacy and information security of every single person in the United States, and quite likely much of the world. It is absolutely not hyperbole to say that the stakes on this case couldn't be any higher.

Plenty of people are far more qualified than me to analyze the technical and legal issues as they relate to this case. They've been discussed to great lengths, but ultimately these discussions are irrelevant. Is there more to be found in the local contents of the iPhone 5C that belonged to the man? Maybe, maybe not. Even if there is, it's not likely going to do more than confirm what the FBI already knows.

There are only two reasons the FBI is pushing so hard for a method to allow a brute-force attack on iOS: they want to be lazy, and they want to be cheap.

There are scores of other documented methods to get data out of flash memory using special techniques. These methods are labor-intensive, most are quite risky, and none are cheap. There's also the small possibility of finding a software flaw in iOS that can be exploited, but despite what John McAfee's drug-addled brain tells him, that's not going to happen in less than a month.

What's really shocking, and disgusts me to no end, are the people that think the FBI is right. These people think it's perfectly fine to give a government agency power over their private data just for the possibility, not even the assurance, that critical information as it relates to national security will be found. Just the possibility. Let's not even think about how easy to abuse this incredibly dangerous legal precedent will be.

These same people that rally against "big government" on a daily basis are perfectly happy to give the FBI a path directly into their personal lives when someone says "terrorist". The sheer hypocrisy is astonishing, but also unfortunately predictable. Most Americans are just that stupid. Toss in phrases like "patriotic duty" and "national security" and watch as what little common sense these people have goes flying out their ears. You only need look at the current elections to see it happening in real time.

Rest assured that if Apple loses, the FBI will chase every other tech company for similar compromises to their security. Google will be next, and Microsoft will follow. I haven't even talked about what happens if bad actors figure out these compromises, but you can bet your last dollar that they will.

All so the FBI can save a few bucks.

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