Reality Check: McAfee Claims FBI Wants To End All Encryption,…

Reality Check: McAfee Claims FBI Wants To End All Encryption, Not Just Hack One iPhone

Posted by Ben Swann on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By now you know that the FBI is demanding and a federal magistrate judge is ordering Apple to build a backdoor to its operating system.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says they need it for only one phone, only this one time. But nobody is buying that, including the man who says if that is true, he can do it.

This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.

The case involves an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Farook. Farook’s iPhone, which was given to him by his government employer, is locked and the FBI says they can’t get into it unless they get help from Apple.

So what exactly is the FBI asking for?

To be clear, Apple cannot extract information directly from Farook’s—or anyone else’s—iPhone. That is because all data on an iPhone is encrypted.

The security measures for iOS 8, which rolled out in 2014, ensure that no one, not even Apple, can access information on an iPhone by sneaking through a software “backdoor.”

Now a federal judge says Apple has to create that backdoor. Apple says they fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.

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John McAfee is the creator of McAfee security software and is one of the foremost cyber security experts in the world. I spoke to him by Skype, and he says this fight is really over encryption as a whole.

“The problem is that once you put a backdoor into a piece of software, every hacker in the world is going to find it and use it, and [then] we’re in a world of hurt,” he says.

McAfee says that if the FBI is telling the truth about their intentions and they really need to get into just this one, then he and his team of hackers have agreed to hack that San Bernardino shooter’s phone for the FBI for free. And he says they can do it in less than three weeks.

“But what I have done is said, look, you know, if in fact you are sincere in wanting to get access to just that one phone, my team and I will do it,” he says. “We can crack it—easily. I guarantee it. There is no un-crackable encryption. We all know that.

“They have not responded [to my offer] and I do not think they will because it’s not just that one phone they want. They want a key to everyone’s phone.”

McAfee does say there is a bigger issue at hand, because what the FBI and the federal government is actually doing here is a move that will destroy encryption. In an op-ed he writes, “After years of arguments by virtually every industry specialist that back doors will be a bigger boon to hackers and to our nation’s enemies than publishing our nuclear codes.”

“We all say the same thing,” McAfee says. “You can’t do it and keep us safe as a nation. . . . And you can’t do it and keep us safe as individuals. ‘Cause I guarantee that once that backdoor goes in, all of our bank accounts are going to be emptied by the the bad hackers. All of our social security numbers are going to be known.”

What you need to know is that if McAfee is right, the FBI can demonstrate their true intentions easily. Let the nation’s best hackers open that one phone. But if this move is as many people believe—actually a move to force Apple to end encryption—then the ramifications are much bigger than government and terrorists.

Breaking encryption will impact every American’s privacy, banking, finances and online identity. Encryption isn’t the tool that bad guys use to hide. It is the only thing that actually can make you safe online.