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Legal Conflict Between FBI and Apple Based on Cryptography

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Why Crypto

Cryptography is the art of writing or solving codes. These codes are used to convey messages to allow for secrecy and security. It has been used for centuries mainly for militaristic purposes. Kings would send spies into enemy territory who would use discreet code words to speak safely with their allies. Washington and the founding fathers had their own spy network who used crypts written by Ben Franklin (mostly) to communicate safely while under the British’s eye. Today our militaries use cyphers and encryptions to exchange delicate information safely over the internet and in person. Cryptography was an important aspect during WWII that ultimately helped decide the war. Messages were sent through telegraph wires using complex codes and keys by both sides and it was a constant battle of “who knows what?” Today the same battle goes on but nowadays it’s mainly done through the internet. Nowadays, rather than using morse code and large coding machines that could decrypt messages we instead use the internet and complicated programs and algorithms in order to protect our vital information. Any regular person could be hacked almost anywhere in the world and sometimes find a hacker or preventing a security breach easier said than done. Similarly, it is not always easy hacking into someone’s network. Sometimes countries and government agencies attempt to spy on dangerous criminal organizations or even on each other attempting to break their target’s encryptions.

The two “worlds” shown in “Cryptonomicon” are of WWII and today. Wartime was far different back then with less prepared and disciplined soldiers often fresh out of school or even just off the streets to enlist. The officers often abused opium and slept with hookers when they were off. This is embodied by the character Frick who Shaftoe had a conflict with while aboard his ship. Rather nowadays actions such as those would most likely be reciprocated with a Court Marshall or some other form of military discipline. Also the soldiers of that time often used racist language when regarding Chinese people. They had regularly referred to the shoe shiners, bag boys, Chinese soldiers or even regular Chinese man as “Coolies” and their fighting style “Chop-Suey”. Nowadays soldiers would be a bit more careful with their terms because of codes of conduct and discipline expected of you as well as the fact that if you were to be recorded saying racial slurs then probably the world would know by the next day due to the internet.

Apple versus the US Government

A major legal conflict being monitored by the media recently has been the conflict between Apple and the FBI. a terrorist that organized and conducted a mass shooting use an Apple iphone to plan and make calls in the months prior to the attack but had stopped backing up his info to the cloud. Due to this the FBI needs to hack into the phone in order to see if there was any vital information on the phone pertaining to any terrorist organizations or upcoming attacks. The issue is that the FBI is currently unable to hack into the phone without risking the permanent loss of all information on the phone. Due to this, the FBI is requesting that Apple should make a “key” that would be used to allow the FBI the ability to hack into the phone. Apple however is refusing to do so because they feel that it would then be able to be used to hack into all Apple devices. Apple iphones are encrypted with a 256 bit encryption that ultimately affords any user security that their device is safe from hackers however if this key were to be made, Apple feels it would pose a huge risk to this security system and put all of it’s users at risk. Craig Federighi said in a statement “In just the past 18 months,hackers have repeatedly breached the defenses of retail chains, banks and even the federal government, making off with the credit card information, Social Security numbers and fingerprint records of millions of people.” In addition to personal data, Federighi also brought up the possibility of terrorist organizations being able to hack personal devices. “Our nation’s vital infrastructure —?? such as power grids and transportation hubs —?? becomes more vulnerable when individual devices get hacked, criminals and terrorists who want to infiltrate systems and disrupt sensitive networks may start their attacks through access to just one person’s smartphone.” Federighi said that the encryption represents “the best data security available to consumers,” making it “so disappointing” that the FBI is pushing against its technology.”

Adversely, the FBI wants Apple to comply and doesn’t believe it would be as catastrophic to security as Apple states it would be. A federal judge had ruled that for the sake of national security, Apple should assist the FBI by giving them a “key” that could be used to hack into the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. Apple says that this would be a major breach to security a violation of privacy for millions however the FBI claims that this data key would be kept safe and that they only want to use it to get into this one phone. They claim that this wouldn’t put millions of iPhone users at risk to cyber attacks. The FBI says that rights won’t compromised if Apple was to comply to the FBI’s request and gave a number of reasons as to why Apple should comply to their request and why Americans wouldn’t be at as much risk as Apple claims they would be. Firstly, the main reason the FBI believes Apple should help them unlock the phone with this “key” is because the key itself would only identify with that single iPhone. This means that the key would be unable to unlock other iPhone models, only the one and possibly other iPhone 5s. Secondly, the FBI is fully content with the software being created exclusively within an Apple facility and that the phone would be unlocked their as well. The phone itself would never have to enter the government’s custody. Thirdly, even if the FBI was to obtain the software and want to use it, they would need a search warrant in order to do so. Lastly, The FBI has given Apple the option of using an alternative means to hack into the phone and has offered to pay whatever it takes to do it. In other words, it doesn’t care about the software, just getting at Farook’s texts, contacts, emails and photos.

Personally, I try to stay neutral in big media conflicts but if I was asked whether I would support the FBI or Apple, I would say I’d lean more towards Apple. The reason I chose to be on Apple’s side is because while I do see the urgency in the FBI’s need to get into this phone, I feel that it would be a breach of security to create the “key” for the phone. Hackers have gotten into the private servers of government agencies before and if this key was to be created, they would very possibly be able to get their hands on it. Also, while the key may hypothetically only be for the iPhone 5 or even just that singular phone, seeing how the key works and was coded may give hackers an idea of how to create one for themselves. I understand that it may be unlikely or even be considered “impossible” but many times throughout history, hackers have managed to do things that have been considered impossible. I feel that if Apple and the FBI used an alternative means of hacking into the phone, I would support the FBI.

As for the characters in “Cryptonomicon”, whether or not they would support the FBI over Apple or vice-versa is a hard observation for me to make. Obviously, if you’re a Libertarian who believes the government should stay out of everything or even believe in anarchy, you would side with Apple. Avi, for instance, I feel would side with Apple due to his wanting to create a safe data-haven for the world’s hacker population. Adversely, I feel that characters such as Lawerence Pritchard Waterhouse and Earl Comstock would be on the FBI’s side. I decided this because of the fact that they worked for the protection of America at all costs so in a conflict between a corporation versus a government agency working to protect national security, they would side with the government agency. While I feel Lawerence Waterhouse would side with the FBI, I think Randy Waterhouse as well as the other members of Epiphyte, especially Tom Howard and John Cantrell, would all side with Apple due to their (mostly) Libertarian views.

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

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Legal Conflict Between Fbi and Apple Based on Cryptography. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
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