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U.S. Goverment Hacks into iPhone without Apple’s help

Victoria Grimm

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On December 2nd,  2015, a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California resulted in the loss of 14 lives along with the injury of 17 others. The panic and chaos that ensued afterwards led to intense investigation of the two suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.  Investigators at both the federal and local level were able to find plentiful information on the suspects, but needed to unlock Farook’s iPhone 5C in order to look for more clues on their whereabouts before the shooting. Unfortunately for investigators, the iPhone’s software deletes all data on the phone after 10 incorrect password attempts. Things then continued to go south when Apple refused to assist investigators with hacking the phone.

Avoiding a federal court order took some guts on Apple’s part, but the company claims that re-wiring the phone to allow the government to access it would create a new way for law enforcement or even foreign spy agencies to effectively hack into any phone, with CEO Tim Cook stating that it would be the equivalent of creating a “master key” for phones.

However, after the case on Apple being dropped, the U.S Justice Department has claimed that they have found a way to unlock the suspects iPhone. Despite a statement that they could obtain information through the phone, the government has not stated what they have specifically found, or more importantly, how they unlocked the phone. Justice Department spokesperson Melanie Newman maintains that “It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety”.

So why is this dispute important? Well for one, it mixes three of the most prominent aspects of today’s society: technology, privacy, and fear.

Many people today put everything on their phones, from their conversations to their location. Information like this could be very useful to investigators in a case like the San Bernardino shooting, but the situation has prompted many phone-users to ask whether it would be an infringement on rights.

The American public has always been fearful of the government invading their lives, so opening the door to government access of phones could be disastrous. But the government claims that their access to phone data is necessary to prevent and investigate terrorism. Such a statement begs the question: is America’s fear of terrorism stronger than its concern over invasions of privacy? As the push for more government control over technology continues, America will have to make yet another choice between safety and freedom.

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U.S. Goverment Hacks into iPhone without Apple’s help