Burriss: iPhone battle


As the battle between Apple Computers and the FBI continues to make its way through the courts, one of the arguments we're hearing from the government is, "what if," as in, "What if the phone we're trying to crack contains information we need?"

And that certainly is an argument that needs to be considered. But there are other "what ifs" that militate against forcing Apple to break into the phone.

"What if," despite all of the protections, the code Apple is being asked to create gets out into the environment? We've seen time and time again how so-called protected services have been breached. Sometimes the breach is been merely embarrassing. Other times, and fairly recently, the breach has impacted national security, the very thing the government is supposed to be protecting.

Or, "what if" Apple accedes to the government request? Will this be just the first step in massive attempts to force other companies to crack open dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other supposedly secure devices? Once that legal door has been opened it will probably be only a matter of minutes before other law enforcement agencies try to force device manu-facturers to give access to devices, ones either owned by the companies themselves or those owned by millions of private citizens.

Or, "what if" Apple is forced to open the phone, will that make us any more secure? Will it give the government the access it claims it needs to encrypted devices in order to prevent crime or terrorism? The answer is, no it will not. If Apple, and other software manufacturers are forced to provide so-called "back doors" to encryption programs, the bad guys will merely install encryption software from other countries that do not have such protections.

What will then happen is that non-criminals will make use of less secure systems, while criminals will simply switch to software and devices that are specifically designed to thwart access.