The Importance Of Computer Security

910 Words 4 Pages
In June, a father of six was shot dead on a Monday afternoon in Evanston, Ill., a suburb 10 miles north of Chicago. The Evanston police believe that the victim, Ray C. Owens, had also been robbed. There were no witnesses to his killing, and no surveillance footage either.

With a killer on the loose and few leads at their disposal, investigators in Cook County, which includes Evanston, were encouraged when they found two smartphones alongside the body of the deceased: an iPhone 6 running on Apple’s iOS 8 operating system, and a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge running on Google’s Android operating system. Both devices were passcode protected.

An Illinois state judge issued a warrant ordering Apple and Google to unlock the phones and share with authorities
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Recently, a suspect in a Manhattan felony, speaking on a recorded jailhouse call, noted that “Apple and Google came out with these softwares” that the police cannot easily unlock.

Apple, Google and other proponents of full-disk encryption have offered several rationales for this new encryption technology. They have portrayed the new policy as a response to the concerns raised by Edward J. Snowden about data collection by the National Security Agency. They say full-disk encryption makes devices generally more secure from cybercrime. And they assert that, if the companies had master encryption keys, then repressive governments could exploit the keys.

These reasons should not be accepted at face value. The new Apple encryption would not have prevented the N.S.A.’s mass collection of phone-call data or the interception of telecommunications, as revealed by Mr. Snowden. There is no evidence that it would address institutional data breaches or the use of malware. And we are not talking about violating civil liberties — we are talking about the ability to unlock phones pursuant to lawful, transparent judicial orders.

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In France, smartphone data was vital to the swift investigation of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in January, and the deadly attack on a gas facility at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, in June. And on a daily basis, our agencies rely on evidence lawfully retrieved from smartphones to fight sex crimes, child abuse, cybercrime, robberies or homicides.

Full-disk encryption significantly limits our capacity to investigate these crimes and severely undermines our efficiency in the fight against terrorism. Why should we permit criminal activity to thrive in a medium unavailable to law enforcement? To investigate these cases without smartphone data is to proceed with one hand tied behind our backs.

The new encryption policies of Apple and Google have made it harder to protect people from crime. We support the privacy rights of individuals. But in the absence of cooperation from Apple and Google, regulators and lawmakers in our nations must now find an appropriate balance between the marginal benefits of full-disk encryption and the need for local law enforcement to solve and prosecute crimes. The safety of our communities depends on

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