Last week was a busy week on the cyber front. We saw Apple and the FBI square off during the House Judiciary Committee’s Encryption Tightrope: Balancing American’s Security and Privacy while across the country in San Francisco, 30,000-40,000 experts in cybersecurity gathered together for the world’s largest cybersecurity conference. As James Comey, director of the FBI, and Bruce Sewell, SVP and general counsel for Apple, and others debated in Washington, the encryption debate on privacy vs. security was just as heated thousands of miles away in California.
For most cybersecurity experts, encryption is a key development for keeping our nation safe. “There is no technology more important than encryption,” said Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith at the conference. “That is why we need to stand up, be thoughtful and be vocal […] The path to hell starts at the back door, and we need to make sure that encryption technology remains strong.” The fear that cybercriminals could access and use this backdoor for catastrophic purposes is certainly a valid concern. Additionally, privacy advocates have expressed that forcing Apple to create this iOS software could ignite a dangerous precedent in future investigations, encroaching on U.S. citizen’s privacy.
As for the government, creating this software to bypass iPhone’s key security features could potentially assist the San Bernardino investigation and provide invaluable information for the war against terrorism. In the House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Comey attempted to convince the committee that if created, the government will be careful to not take advantage of this decision. “We are not asking to expand the government’s surveillance authority,” said Comey, “but rather we are asking to ensure that we can continue to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe.” Surely, the final decision will help establish a precedent on if, what and how much the government can access.