It's 1984 all over again

First of all, good news for Apple iPhone 6 users! Apple have now released an apology for the recent error 53 problem and a corresponding update to fix it. The update is iOS 9.2.1 and it will allow you to restore your iPhone using iTunes on either a Windows PC or Mac. The code which caused the problem in the first place and disabled the phone, was apparently never intended to be released to the public.

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

If you do not have a Windows PC or an Apple Mac? Well…

Now the other thing I wanted to talk about was the case in America where the FBI have asked Apple to develop a new version of iOS that will remove certain security features. This in turn will allow the FBI to unlock an iPhone recovered during their investigations of the San Bernadino case.

Usually if you try to hack into an iPhone, after a certain number of failed attempts (10 I believe) the phone becomes locked, wiping the data.

Apple have released a statement explaining the request and their decision not to comply, and several well known big businesses have offered their support. You see while the FBI only want to use the new operating system (which doesn’t exist yet) on a single iPhone, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook goes on to explain that just by existing, it could be re-used and abused. It is not inconceivable that criminals could get hold of the tools and methods for unlocking all iPhones if the alternate version of iOS was created.

Scary thought huh?

It’s not the first time something like this has threatened our own personal data security. The UK government itself wants to enact a bill that would ensure encrypted data could be decrypted upon request and handed over to government authorities. All in the name of anti terrorism legislation.

The common theme here is that governments have national interests, but their actions have international consequences. Big businesses are global, which means the services they provide are too. They are no longer bound by national borders. Similarly the internet is not bound by national borders and don’t even think for one second that criminal organisations are bound by national borders.

If the FBI succeeds in compelling Apple to produce a less secure version of iOS, it affects everyone. If the UK government succeeds in pushing through their bill to decrypt information upon request, it affects everyone.

What with that and the EU’s right to be forgotten (which affects everyone), it’s 1984 all over again. Thought police and censorship anyone?

We have all grown used to living in a surveillance society, with CCTV cameras, phone hacking scandals and neighbours peeking through their curtains. We humans just can’t help being nosey!

The question we all need to be asking ourselves now is this, do the risks of bypassing data security outweigh the benefits?