Valid reasons for Apple's refusal to hack phone

Apple owes a duty of care to protect all of its customers' privacy, no matter who they are ("Apple should look at big picture in iPhone encryption dispute" by Mr Matthew Ong Koon Lock; Thursday).

While the authorities claim that the request to break into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters is a one-off thing ("Apple rejects order to break into shooter's iPhone"; Feb 18), how can one resist not using a piece of software that bypasses Apple encryption technology in the future?

Mr Ong seems to not realise that Apple may have a legitimate reason to reject the request, as it would be forced to create a way to deactivate the password protection feature which erases the device's contents after 10 failed attempts at guessing the password.

Designing such a tool, even for one particular case, could put other users at risk, as the enforcement agency would always have the key and could use it in future instances.

It also sets a dangerous precedent as other governments will watch the outcome of the case and might compel Apple to build them a similar tool.

The heart of the debate is not about the fight against terrorism but over the potential compromising of iOS users' personal information stored in their cellphones.

If a backdoor into the iPhone were to get into the wrong hands, millions of users could experience privacy breaches.

Encryption is a security tool we rely on every day to stop criminals from hacking into our bank accounts and to preserve our security and safety.

However, weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices and data for use by enforcement agencies would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by bad guys.

Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Valid reasons for Apple's refusal to hack phone'. Print Edition | Subscribe