Cybersecurity Insight

Data Security, Technology and the Government

10 Mar

The battle continues for Apple and the FBI – while both parties are focusing on one particular case (whether to unlock the phone used in last year’s horrific San Bernadino shooting), the question posed about data security speaks to a greater question. Specifically, when it comes to particular cases such as the one being brought before the court currently, are the firms that hold the key to this kind of software beholden to the government despite a number of oft-referenced security issues that may present themselves? And if that answer becomes a “yes”, at what point are technology firms able to put their foot down and protect consumer data security from the demanding parties in question?

Meanwhile, Senators Mark Warner and Michael McCaul proposed a national commission to explore security and technology challenges in the digital age. This may just seem like another song and dance on the government’s end – I mean, how many commissions have been enacted thus far, really – but it shows that at least one group that is capable of changing the laws to roll with the constant technological innovation is paying attention. However, how this group interprets the current struggle and what they intend to do about it gives pause for concern. With the case at hand, Apple’s contention is that by creating this “back door” to their security software, no other piece of technology in their arsenal is safe. The FBI has gone as far as guaranteeing the phone in question would be unlocked by the custom-made software in a completely clean room so the technology would not escape; but how can that be completely and totally guaranteed? The FBI is saying “trust us”, and Apple is firing back with “trust no one”.

Let’s assume the court sides with the FBI and order Apple to unlock the San Bernadino attacker’s phone – then what? Despite parties insisting that this one case would not set a precedent, others believe that it absolutely will. Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Technology and Services, Eddy Cue, even went as far as declaring a future surveillance state should the court rule against the company. No one can see into the future, but Cue is probably referring to the over 200 cases currently pending in New York City alone where access has been requested to locked devices; basically, if the door is opened just a crack it can easily swing wide open.

There currently isn’t an immediate solution to this problem, nor are there many answers to begin with. As government cases tend to drag on for months, it will be an on-going and ever-changing discussion about data security and how far state-wide and national governing bodies can push before private entities have to give way. In the meantime, your security is only as secure as your weakest link. Updating and monitoring cyber security needs on personal and professional levels will keep your data that much more secure and safe in the days to come.