LA River School

Opinion: Why can’t the FBI access an iPhone?

On Dec. 2, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire on the Inland Regional Centerin in an apparent terrorist attack. Now the FBI has Farook’s iPhone, but the phone is locked and the FBI cannot access the phone because of the passkey. The FBI could try to guess the passkey, but Apple designed the software to destroy the data after a certain amount of attempts to unlock the phone.

Apple encrypts their devices with a system that isn’t easy to decrypt. The system it uses is an AES 256 that is built into the phone. Computer code is all 1’s and 0’s as most of us know, so you can get a combination of either 1’s or 0’s but you have to try that 256 times (2^256). Trying to figure out the right combination of numbers would just take too long.

The phone takes about 1/12 of a second to process the numbers that have been inputted into the code. If the phone uses the default setting of the six-digit passcode with only the nine numbers then it would have about 531,441 different combinations to choose from. The process could take the FBI around 20 hours to complete. If the phone uses lowercase letters and numbers then the possibilities would skyrocket to 1,838,265,625 different combinations. That would take the FBI around five years to complete the process.

This process is just way too long to try to solve, and assuming that Farook did set up his setting to erase the phone after a certain amount of time then it would be impossible to guess from 1.8 billion different combinations. The FBI could try a different approach and just take apart the phone and remove its data core from the circuit that has the erase program and attach it to a program that won’t, but again that would only increase the amounts to tries that they have to get the passcode. They would still have to try to guess it.

Apple has designed their system to be impossible from getting hacked into and so far their system works. They do not have any way to get the information themselves because when they set up an iPhone, it gets its own system that is only on that device and Apple does not keep anything that would aid in unlocking other phones to view the data.

Apple is using the privacy argument against the FBI. They say that if they obey the court order and help the FBI unlock the iPhone, then it will give the FBI reason to ask for more favors in the future. If the Apple and the FBI create an update to unlock the iPhone, then it will basically create a universal key to get into any iPhone and see every one’s information. Apple says they want to keep every one’s private information safe and if the key is created, then they will lose the safety that they provide to their customers.

The FBI argues that if the iPhone is not unlocked, then it will inspire criminals to use the software for their own deeds. Criminals would use the privacy that Apple provides to hide their operations because law enforcement wouldn’t be able to unlock the phone, even less local law enforcement. The FBI is standing on the “All Writs Act” that says that the courts are able to write orders that will aid them that are agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

Mr. Tom Cuda, a math and computer program teacher at Los Angeles River School, believes that Apple should not unlock the iPhone. He explained that the FBI could already unlock the phone without aid. Cuda does not support the idea because he believes that if the case is won by the FBI, then it would become easier for them to unlock phones and access people’s information.

I believe that Apple should make an agreement with the FBI and figure something out so that the FBI doesn’t gain one of the most dangerous weapons to the public privacy. They should somehow inform the public that the FBI can access iPhones, but most likely won’t because it will remove motive for criminals. At the same time, ensure that the public feels safe so Apple doesn’t lose its credibility on having an incredibly secure software.