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FBI, Apple battle may leave lasting legacy

Maria Korolov | March 24, 2016
The FBI may have backed off from its demand that Apple build a backdoor, but experts say that a lasting legacy will remain

Rubicon, for example, has a hardware-based key storage solution that secures the key inside a protected environment, so that neither Rubicon itself nor the enterprise ever sees the keys.

If the FBI had won its case against Apple, companies like Rubicon may have faced similar requests to build back doors to their technology.

"We're hardware-based protection," said Rubicon's Schultz. "We would physically have to change our hardware to do that. It could take months, if not years to do."

And the company would lose customers as a result, he added.

"Any time you intentionally destroy the integrity of technology, it is basically asking for trouble," he said.

Other experts agree, including Ben Johnson, chief security strategist at Carbon Black, a former cyberengineer for the NSA.

"If Apple is forced to open this up, it sets a dangerous precedent for being able to force manufacturers and tech companies to break their own trust with users and consumers," he said. "I love the intelligence community, I worked there, I got my start there, but weakening our security is a very dangerous approach."

Weakening security puts everyone at greater risk, said security expert Bruce Schneier, CTO at Resilient Systems.

"Security is too important to throw it away for this kind of silly warrant," he said.

In a survey conducted at the recent RSA conference by AlienVault, the majority of the IT security community, or 63 percent, said they support Apple in its dispute with the FBI, and just more than half, or 51 percent, said the FBI was looking to set a new legal precedent to be able to unlock all devices made by Apple and other tech companies.

It's not just about the U.S.

If the U.S. authorities had succeeded in forcing Apple to build a backdoor — or are able to do so at some point in the future — then it would set an example for other countries, said Anderson.

"If it happened here, it's very easy for regulators to follow the same position elsewhere," he said. "Not that they blindly follow what we do, but it sets a reference point."

"Compelling Apple to build a backdoor for its own product actually undermines the security and personal safety of millions of Americans and others around the world, especially those living under authoritarian regimes," said EFF's Cope.

Even if the government were able to mandate encryption backdoors, this would have little impact on actually being able to deter criminals or terrorists, since the encryption technology is free and publicly available.

"Cryptography exists," said Yehuda Lindell, co-founder and chief scientist at Dyadic Security and author of the widely-used textbook "Introduction of Modern Cryptography." "You can open my textbook and read it and now you will know how to write your own code and protect yourself."


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