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FBI declares win over Apple: Industry reaction

The FBI has today declared victory in it's long running and very public battle with Apple over the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter.

Apple stood on the side of user privacy and stated that it would not weaken encryption or introduce backdoors to give agencies such as the FBI a way into devices, a stance which was largely supported within the industry.

Now, the FBI has announced that it found a way in without Apple's help. Various industry professionals have offered their thoughts on the subject.

Mark Skilton, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School and cyber security expert:

"The FBI versus Apple case has left a sour taste. The reported information on it is very scarce as to how they did it, it has in-effect been classified which means that we may never find out. The deeper question ‘is our data safe and private?’ The former may be the case but our privacy seems to be increasingly harder to hold on to in the digital age and is something I forecast will become a bigger issue for all citizens as they try to control and value their privacy better.

"I see the FBI versus Apple case has created a possible higher sense of the need for control over personal data and a rise in personal data systems will become ever more critical in the fight to regain access and control to your data whether for public or private means.

"To some degree it has continued to reinforce the cyber war that is going on in all sides seeking to find ways to break secure systems, something that is no different to any other arms race for power.

"The evidence is that cyber threats are a growing issue that was a core part of the Apple case for not opening up the phone and giving way to potentially more weaknesses. Industry cyber threat reports say this is growing at 66 per cent annually. In the PWC annual global state of information security survey 2015, in financial theft this is over 90 per cent annual growth.

"The issue now is whether this has resolved anything or whether it has simply created a scenario where, 'if we can get round your defence then that is ok' appears to be acceptable."

Phil Lee, Palo Alto-based data protection partner at European law firm Fieldfisher:

"You might think that Apple should have handed over the data to the FBI in the first place, but Apple's point is that building in security back doors to their products comes at the expense of everyone's privacy, and that's a principle that they're not prepared to concede.

"Silicon Valley companies have taken a public beating over recent years for not doing enough to protect their users' data, but Apple is taking a stand. At stake is not only the privacy of our communications, but whether Silicon Valley can restore the trust that it's lost."

Trent Telford, CEO of Covata:

“With the FBI having successfully gained access to the iPhone of San Bernardino killer, Syed Farook, a dangerous precedent has been set unnecessarily. From a national security point of view, it makes complete sense that government authorities should be given access to data which can protect the nation. It shouldn’t be given access to all the data, however, as doing so potentially infringes the privacy of those citizens not breaking the law.

“Encryption techniques aren't all made equal. In this case, it is possible to take an approach to key fragmentation that ties the reassembly process to specific countries and jurisdictions ensuring there are defined controls that must be met before authorities are able to gain access of data. This process driven approach will provide the middle ground between gaining access to information and maintaining privacy. Using this technique, access is only granted on pre-agreed policies and described mechanisms – such as on the agreement of all key custodians – ensuring that all parties know exactly what data is being retrieved and via what method. If key fragmentation had been deployed in this instance, the FBI would only have gained access to the specific pieces of data on the iPhone pertaining to the incident, not an ‘access all areas’ to consumers' information.

“Critically, technology firms have a responsibility to protect our personal data – whether that be from hackers or government agencies – and the current discussions are putting a line in the sand when it comes to privacy.

"Where this line is drawn, will be fundamental to national security and privacy in the future, which is why it’s so worrying that technical capabilities are seemingly being overlooked.”

Image source: Shutterstock/Gil C