Craig Federighi: Why FBI's backdoor demands are so harmful

Craig Federighi on why FBI’s backdoor demands are so harmful


Hair Force One wants everyone to become a coder.
Cray-Fed says the FBI wants us to return to a world of iOS 7-level security.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s battle with the FBI, over whether it should create a backdoor to allow for the hacking of iPhones, is one of the biggest stories in tech right now.

Over the weekend, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, took to the pages of the Washington Post for an impassioned op-ed about how hard Apple works to stay ahead of criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate its systems — and why the FBI and Justice Department’s proposed solution to the problem is so “disappointing.”

Federighi writes:

“[T]he FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.

To get around Apple’s safeguards, the FBI wants us to create a backdoor in the form of special software that bypasses passcode protections, intentionally creating a vulnerability that would let the government force its way into an iPhone. Once created, this software — which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones — would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.”

Federighi’s op-ed is, perhaps, nothing new to people who have been following this story from the very beginning. Tim Cook said as much in his open letter to customers three weeks ago, in which he wrote that the FBI’s proposals risk undermining “the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

However, given how much misinformation there has been in this case — and how split public opinion is about it (possibly as a result) — it’s great to see Apple turn to a mainstream news outlet to present its side of the argument directly. While rare, this is not a wholly unprecedented move on the part of Apple. For instance, in late 2013, Cook wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a proposed piece of U.S. legislation protecting against sexual identity and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Fortunately, in the case of Apple’s fight for privacy, the company seems to be winning. Last week, the United Nations joined a number of organizations standing behind Apple in its fight against creating a government backdoor for iOS. In a letter written in support of Apple, U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye argued that encryption is “fundamental to the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age,” and blasted the FBI’s demands as totally unnecessary.

You can read Cray-Fed’s entire op-ed here.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.