It’s a two-party system: One offers better security


Apple scored a victory against the FBI when it backed down on asking the company to create a means of unlocking iPhones.

Or did it?

Writing for USAToday, Jon Swartz says “Apple risks consumer fallout from FBI hack.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Alex Fleming.)

Ah, is “consumer fallout” when new customers rain from the sky, attracted to your platform by your tough stand on personal security and privacy?

Uh, no, not according to Swartz.

The good news:

Wait, wait, wait. The Macalope always asks for the bad news first.

Apple vanquished the FBI in its bid to crack the iPhone of a terrorist.

So unfair. There are rules for how this game is played, Jon. This violation of protocol will not stand.

The bad news: The FBI cracked that phone without the company’s cooperation, raising questions about the security of its most important product.

Uh, maybe, but your choices are pretty much Android, which is demonstrably worse on security, or the iPhone. Or you could not own a smartphone. Just disappear into the woods and eat grubs and bark. So, three options, really. iPhone, Android and trying to digest bark.

Let it not be said that the Macalope did not list all the options.

[BlackBerry user starts to object but then shuffles away as the sad Charlie Brown music plays.]

"There will be fallout,” says Norman Guadagno, chief evangelist at cloud data-protection company Carbonite.

Will there, guy desperately trying to get his company’s name in the news? Fascinating.

Apple may have won its sharp-elbowed skirmish with the FBI, but the broader business and legal implications of that victory are murky.

If I continue to say the same thing in different ways, surely readers will accept my premise.

The case's outcome “gets Apple out of the problem of being compelled to assist the government, but it creates a new problem of widespread knowledge that there’s a way for both the government and at least one third party to access an iPhone running the most recent version of the operating system,” said Kristen Eichensehr, a professor of cyber law at UCLA’s School of Law.

A month ago the problem was that the public supposedly sided with the FBI. “UNLOCK THE PHONE!” the public was screaming. Now it’s that iPhone users will stop buying iPhones because there’s a way to unlock the phone.

Because the FBI has not shared what methods it used to get into the phone or the name of the "outside party" it worked with to get in, it’s hard to gauge the ramifications of the FBI's hack on iPhone security in general.

Oh, you mean we have absolutely no idea how the government got into this phone that they have physical access to? Oh. Certainly, then, we should make all kinds of assumptions about how it was done and then, based on that, what that means for Apple’s market position. Surely this is when Windows Phone surges.

Point of fact, we don’t even know that they really did unlock this phone. When the FBI has done nothing but prevaricate in trying to wage what amounts to a marketing war with Apple, the Macalope’s not exactly sure why we should now take their statements at face value.

Is it possible the FBI found a zero-day flaw in iOS that let them bypass the account code attempt limit? Sure. But how this is supposed to hurt Apple when most Android phones aren’t even encrypted is antler-scratchingly confusing.

Some, like intellectual property strategist Raymond Hegarty, wonder if Apple would have ultimately been better served by cooperating quietly and “maintained the pretense of iPhone security,” he says.

When dealing with issues of intellectual property, always hire Raymond Hegarty, the strategist who recommends lying to your customers.

The simple fact that Apple was specifically targeted by the FBI to create a precedent for unlocking should tell you everything you need to know about which platform is more secure. Neither is necessarily perfectly secure, but in a two-party system all you can do is pick the best choice. And Apple is committed enough to go to the mats.

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