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If the FBI doesn’t tell Apple how they hacked the San Bernardino iPhone, they’re putting lives at risk

Following public outcry about the dangers of government-mandated backdoors, the FBI backed down and opened the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s help. If they really care about public safety, they must disclose the vulnerability they used to Apple to prevent criminals, hackers, and terrorists from exploiting the same security flaw and using it to do harm.

Encryption protects our hospitals, airports, power plants, and water treatment facilities. Sensitive information about critical infrastructure is stored on phones, computers, and in the cloud. The only thing preventing it from falling into the wrong hands is strong security technology.

Security experts agree that when a government agency discovers a security flaw that it can exploit for surveillance purposes, the best thing to do is to disclose that flaw to the company so that it can fix it for future products. That’s because vulnerabilities are never just used by law enforcement. Time and time again, security flaws that were created or hoarded by agencies like the FBI and NSA have been used by criminal hackers and foreign governments to carry out attacks.

Even the White House agrees, and has created a program specifically for the government to share vulnerabilities in cases exactly like this. But so far, the FBI is dodging the question, and won’t say whether they’ll do the right thing here.

The FBI claimed to the court at least 19 times that there was no way they could unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter without forcing Apple to build a government backdoor into their operating system. They maintained this repeatedly. Under oath. But the consensus among security experts is that this was never true; the FBI misled the court and the public in pursuit of a dangerous precedent.

Now that they’ve opened the iPhone in question, the mainstream media is already speculating as to how they did it. And it goes without saying that hackers, other governments, and those wishing to exploit this security flaw to do harm to the public are already hard at work trying to figure it out. Worse, the FBI has a terrible track record of protecting it’s own data. Just recently they leaked personal information about more than 20,000 FBI agents. They’re clearly not capable of keeping this exploit from falling into the wrong hands.

 

The only responsible thing for the FBI to do to protect all of our safety and security is to disclose the method they used to Apple so they can fix it and make sure it can’t be used to carry out future attacks.

 

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