BI­O­LOG­I­CAL WEAPON

CHERTOFF: IPHONE OVER­RIDE IS SOFT­WARE EQUIV­A­LENT OF

Chicago Sun-Times - - MONEY - El­iz­a­beth Weise

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.

JEWEL SA­MAD, AFP/ GETTY IM­AGES

An anti- govern­ment pro­tester’s iPhone re­veals his views dur­ing a Feb. 23 demon­stra­tion near the Ap­ple store on Fifth Av­enue in New York.

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