Encryption is important. Many companies and individuals take advantage of the benefits of encryption. No one has every suggested it is illegal and that the government has a right to nullify the advantages. Well, no one until now.
Simply understood encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it. Encryption does not of itself prevent interception, but denies the message content to the interceptor. In an encryption scheme, the intended device, communication information or message, referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm, generating ciphertext that can only be read if decrypted. For technical reasons, an encryption scheme usually uses a pseudo-random encryption key generated by an algorithm. It is in principle possible to decrypt the message without possessing the key, but, for a well-designed encryption scheme, large computational resources and skill are required. An authorized recipient can easily decrypt the message with the key provided by the originator to recipients, but not to unauthorized interceptors. Hence, even the FBI is unable to unlock the information.
The purpose of encryption is, to ensure that only somebody who is qualified to access data (e.g. a text message or a file) will be able to read it, using the decryption key. Somebody who is not qualified to access the information can be excluded from doing that, because he does not have the required decryption key. Without it, it’s impossible to read the encrypted information. In that way, it’s possible to protect random people from reading private information.
Do I have a right to encrypt my devices? Well, it is legal and openly encouraged by device makers, including Microsoft. I own a Microsoft laptop known as the Surface Book. Microsoft provides me the ability to encrypt it. I do. I don’t want the contents usable if it is stolen or lost.
When I was CIO of a major corporation, I installed encryption on all our laptops. Our auditors essentially insisted on it. It was the right thing to do.
So, I don’t see this as a dispute between the FBI and Apple. The question is do I have the freedom and liberty to encrypt my devices? Do companies have that right?
The dispute between Apple and the FBI over Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone recovered from the alleged San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook marks another chapter in the ongoing battle between privacy and security in the internet age.
While the FBI wants Apple to circumvent the iPhone’s auto-erase mechanism after 10 failed login attempts and has a court order to strengthen its claim, Apple refuses to do so, claiming that such a software could serve as a master key to any iPhone should it fall into the wrong hands. Last week, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook addressed the public in an open letter defending his company’s stance on the matter, saying that following the government’s demands in this case would set a dangerous precedent with respect to the safety of personal data.
While tech companies such as Google and Facebook have voiced their support for Apple in the ongoing dispute, the American public is leaning towards the FBI on the issue. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of adults in the U.S. think that Apple should unlock the perpetrator’s phone while 38 percent think that Apple is right not to cooperate. Even among the company’s faithful, support is tepid at best: 47 percent of iPhone users think Apple should follow the FBI’s orders vs. 43 percent who don’t.