The media is erupting over the FBI’s demand that Apple help it decrypt an iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers involved in the assault in San Bernardino this past December. Originally Apple wanted the FBI to keep things on the down low, asking the Feds to present their application for access under seal. But for whatever reason the FBI decided to go public. Apple then put on a big show of resistance and now there are legislators threatening to change the law in favor of the FBI. Yet concealed amid this unfolding drama is a vital fact that very few outlets are paying attention to.
Tim Cook protests that Apple is being asked to create “a new version of the iPhone operating system.” This glib talking point distracts attention from the reality that there’s essentially a backdoor on every new iPhone that ships around the world: the ability to load and execute modified firmware without user intervention.