FBI Director asks congressional committee what would happen if Apple engineers were kidnapped and forced to write a back door
Apple vs FBI took a dramatic turn in the Washington when FBI Director asked the House Judiciary Committee what would happen if Apple engineers were kidnapped and forced to write a back door.
two hours of gruesome questioning, Comey dropped the literal H-bomb at the hearing.
The hearing is being held to ascertain whether FBI needs Apple to provide a back door into the iPhone that belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. It comes on the back of huge controversy over the court judgement which asked Apple to hack the shooter’s iPhone and provide FBI with a backdoor. Apple has vociferously opposed any such move saying that this move could open up a unstoppable request list from FBI and other government agencies.
During the questioning, when Florida Congressman Ted Deutch asked Comey if the potential repercussions of such a back door falling into the wrongs hands were of valid concern, Comey responded by posing a hypothetical situation in which Apple’s own engineers were kidnapped.
“Slippery slope arguments are always attractive, but I suppose you could say, ‘Well, Apple’s engineers have this in their head, what if they’re kidnapped and forced to write software?'” Comey said before the committee. “That’s where the judge has to sort this out, between good lawyers on both sides making all reasonable arguments.”
However Comey’s hypothesis was not far from being true. In fact, certain Apple engineers are given guidance on what to do if they are kidnapped. According to a source with knowledge of the company’s security practices, engineers are told to “go along with the demands and do whatever’s necessary to survive.” Simply put, “Do whatever they ask. No heroes.”
This situation is a hypothesis that Apple works on because it is impossible to create a backdoor even if someone kidnaps a single Apple engineer. Apple maintains a rigorous regimen in software side of manufacturing to prevent such incidents from taking place. The source added that Apple splits the engineers who work on its software into different teams. To create what the FBI needs to break past the San Bernardino iPhone’s passcode, kidnappers would have to force engineers from one team to create a specific build of the mobile operating system, iOS, and have engineers on another team digitally sign the build with its own master key.
The team that manages that master key is named Certificate Authority and only 5 engineers have the access that would be required to make the digital signature, according to the source. Most of actions that would be required take two engineers to authenticate, the source said.
Apple hasnt commented on Comey’s statement.