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What does a recent court case mean for smartphone encryption?

What does a recent court case mean for smartphone encryption?

The battle for the increasingly competitive smartphone market is fought by two major operating system alternatives, Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform. Because both platforms are responsible for a significant proportion of the total market share, any data privacy issue that affects either one or both of them impacts millions upon millions of innocent consumers. 

Compromised smartphones could impact millions of people.

This is especially true for iPhone owners. According to TechCrunch, Apple sold 48 million of the devices in Q3 of last year alone, further adding to a substantial install base. However, while it's likely that a significant proportion of these new iPhone owners were satisfied with their purchases, a recent news story brought doubt to the Apple faithful. Could these devices be easily compromised? 

A request from the FBI raised plenty of questions about the device's security, and the response from Apple set an important standard for the rest of the industry to follow. So, what was the result and how do encryption apps fit into the equation?

What was the security issue?

The concerns for the future security of Apple devices were raised by the need to gain access to one single iPhone. The smartphone in question belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

In connection with the crimes, the FBI wanted to access the locked device for further information on the suspect and the events that took place. However, the organisation was unable to find its way through the security measures installed on the phone. Rather than crack it itself, the FBI took Apple to court in an attempt to force the company to create a tool that would open the phone. 

The courts ruled that Apple had to comply with the demands, but the company backed down due to fear that this would create a permanent backdoor into any of its devices, not just the one used by the shooter. 

The courts ordered Apple to create backdoor in iOS.The courts ordered Apple to create backdoor in iOS.

Apple's response

The iPhone manufacturer responded with an open letter to its customers, stating that the San Bernardino case was just a small example of a much wider issue. Personal cybersecurity is becoming a major concern for many individuals, especially as the range of sensitive data and information transfers that take place on these devices continues to grow. 

For this reason, Apple stated that encryption is becoming an even more important issue for major tech organisations through to individuals. Apple described the tool the FBI requested as something that it considers "too dangerous to create".

It's important to prioritise security at an app-level, as well as on the overall device. For secure messaging, calling and file transfer services, download the free SafeSwiss app for your Android or iOS device today. 

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