Apple's CEO On Encryption: "You Can't Have A Back Door That's Only For The Good Guys"
There’s a burning debate – bordering on a battle – between the U.S. government and technology companies over encryption.
The government asserts that encryption – when it is so strong that the police can not eavesdrop on communications in their efforts to catch and prosecute criminals – is a bad thing. Some government officials have even suggested that terrorists use encrypted communications to help carry out their acts of malice.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have amplified the government’s contention that strong encryption is putting our country (and our allies) at risk. This creates fear, uncertainty, and doubt for the American people – given that most of us do not understand the intricacies of encryption.
Tech companies are focused on building the strongest possible encryption and cybersecurity into their products — so strong that even they can not access data and communications on the computers, laptops, tablets, phones, and software they manufacture. In response to a cybercrime epidemic, tech companies are aiming for hacker-proof digital communications that enable businesses to conduct secure e-commerce, to protect consumers from identity theft, and to provide everyone with a safer smart phone experience.
The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) calls itself the global voice of the tech sector. ITI members are the largest tech brands including Apple, Dell, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Twitter, and many others. The ITI has been a platform for tech companies to join together and uniformly speak to the issue of encryption.
The ITI released the following statement two days ago from President and CEO Dean Garfield, in response to calls from the government to weaken encryption:
“Encryption is a security tool we rely on everyday to stop criminals from draining our bank accounts, to shield our cars and airplanes from being taken over by malicious hacks, and to otherwise preserve our security and safety. We deeply appreciate law enforcement’s and the national security community’s work to protect us, but weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices and data for use by the good guys would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the bad guys, which would almost certainly cause serious physical and financial harm across our society and our economy. Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense.”
Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, was at The Wall Street Journal’s technology conference, WSJD Live last month when he said “I don’t know a way to protect people without encrypting”. Apple has been criticized by the government – and praised by users – for building strong encryption into their newest iPhones. “You can’t have a backdoor that’s only for the good guys” added Cook.
Cook’s point is that if Apple and the other tech vendors weaken encryption to where the government and police can eavesdrop on communications and access sensitive data, then hackers and cyber criminals will be able to do the same thing.
Imagine if all of the big companies came together and made a global announcement that they’ve decided to cooperate on weakening encryption. That would be an invitation to cyber evildoers everywhere – that says “come and get us”.
There’s also the matter of personal privacy to consider. As U.S. citizens we enjoy the right to whisper in each other’s ears, to share secrets, to confide in our friends and family, to keep private what we want to keep private. We live in a digital society now. We use our smart phones to whisper to each other. Are we willing to give up our privacy? If the government is able to snoop on us, that means the hackers are able to snoop on us… and it’s the hackers who will not only violate our privacy, but steal our contact information, lift our credit card digits, store our social security numbers, and sell our login IDs and passwords in a black market underground that none of us really understands.
We live in the greatest country in the world. Our President and our entire government is well intentioned around protecting us. But so are the tech companies. The White House should talk to Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and the others real soon. But more importantly, they should listen to them.
This article was written by Steve Morgan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.