CHERTOFF: IPHONE OVERRIDE IS SOFTWARE EQUIVALENT OF
Forcing Apple to write an operating system so it can try to break into the iPhone used by a terrorist is the computer code equivalent of building a biological weapon, the former secretary of U. S. Homeland Security said Thursday.
The problem is that the FBI demand would require Apple not only to build the code, but to maintain it, because there are already multiple requests for law enforcement to get into other phones, Michael Chertoff said Thursday at the RSA computer security conference.
“Once you’ve created code that’s potentially compromising, it’s like a bacteriological weapon. You’re always afraid of it getting out of the lab,” Chertoff said at a keynote panel titled “Beyond Encryption: Why We Can’t Come Together on Security and Privacy — and the Catastrophes That Await If We Don’t.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook used another medical analogy when he spoke with ABC News after the FBI’s demand became public. The only way to get the information would be to write software “that we view as sort of the equivalent of cancer,” he said. “We believe that is a very dangerous operating system.”
The request is an “outrageous overstepping of boundaries of government,” said Nuala O’Connor, CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, D. C.- based digital rights group. “Once it’s created, you cannot un- write that code and un- ring that bell.”
On stage with her was Mike Mc Connell, who said that “ubiquitous encryption is something the nation needs to have,” in part to protect it against intellectual property theft by China.
McConnell, now a senior executive adviser at strategy firm Booz Allen Hamilton, was the director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. In computer security circles, he’s known for his support of the Clipper Chip during that time.
The Clipper Chip would have required communications devices that used encryption to install a government- produced computer chip containing a built- in back door to overcome the encryption. The cryptographic keys to those back doors would have been held by the government in escrow. The program was dropped after privacy and rights groups complained.
An anti- government protester’s iPhone reveals his views during a Feb. 23 demonstration near the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York.