Hey FBI, India can Hack iPhones but Doesn’t Want Backdoors

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Maybe the FBI should team up with India because that country’s government says it can hack into Apple’s iPhones. Both think access to encrypted data in investigations is important, although India’s government doesn’t seem to be going to the same extremes to get it.

India's government has its own iPhone hack

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s Communications Minister, said the government is actively working to keep its electronic device and software forensics tools up to date, according to New Indian Express. He added, “A tool for mobile forensics has been developed, which handles smart phones including Apple phones.”

Mr. Prasad didn’t specify which iPhone models and iOS versions are susceptible to India’s forensic tools. It’s likely India’s forensic experts are dealing with the same frustrations over unlocking newer iPhone models that sport stronger encryption and security features.

Officials in India have been paying close attention to the fight between the FBI and Apple over encryption and privacy, Mr. Prasad said. That fight became very public earlier this year when the FBI obtained a court order demanding Apple create a version of iOS that didn’t include the safeguards preventing brute force attacks on lockscreen passcodes. Apple resisted and said the government didn’t have the authority to force companies to make tools that defeated their product’s security features.

FBI agents were trying to access the encrypted content on an iPhone 5C recovered from San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook. He was killed in a shootout with police, and was the only person who knew the passcode to his iPhone.

The FBI eventually dropped that fight after finding an unnamed third party with a hack that didn’t require Apple’s assistance. The battle isn’t over, however, because the FBI has other cases where it is still pushing forward.

According to the FBI and Department of Justice, easy access to our private and encrypted data is important because criminals and terrorists can otherwise “go dark” and act without repercussion. Apple and other technology companies disagree, saying everyone’s privacy and security would be at risk because intentional weaknesses put in place for one group can be exploited by anyone.

India’s government and the FBI agree that law enforcement agencies should be able to gain access to encrypted data, but they diverge when it comes to requiring backdoors through security features. Where the FBI is pushing hard for backdoors, and legislation has been proposed to strip away digital privacy protections, India isn’t going down that path.