Seeds: In December of last year, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went on a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people. In the ensuing investigation, authorities discovered the only surviving piece of technology left by the two shooters was Farook’s work phone, an iPhone 5C. FBI asked Apple to hack into the phone so that they could access the information without offsetting the device’s “self-destruct” mode. The FBI threatened a lawsuit after Apple stated they wouldn’t create the hacking technology, but abandoned that plan and purchased the software from a third party instead.
Core: The FBI reportedly bought the hacking software from a “grey hat” (basically the name for a hacker who specializes in identifying software vulnerabilities and selling them to the US government). This category of hackers are ethically questionable. Some believe they assist the government in spying on their own citizens, but that their tools are also used for counterterrorism. While the concept of “grey hats” is controversial, more controversy lies in the FBI’s decision to disclose, or not disclose the software vulnerabilities to Apple.
Skin: Since the FBI’s successful hacking of the iPhone, media coverage has died down greatly. However, some news sources continue to cover Apple’s struggle over privacy with the government in smaller cases across the country.
Leaves: The sometimes shady world of hackers includes "white hats”, hackers that find vulnerabilities and work with the maker of the software, “black hats,” hackers who take advantage of vulnerabilities and use them to hack networks and steal personal information, and the party that most likely assisted the FBI, “grey hats.” With all of these potentially dangerous “black hats” out there, many argue that the FBI has a responsibility to share the software flaw with Apple so they can fix it. However, at this moment, the FBI does not seem to be making any moves to do so.
Food for Thought: Do you think the FBI should share the software flaw with Apple? Should Apple have helped the FBI in unlocking the iPhone?