If the FBI can force decryption backdoors, why not backdoors to turn on your phone's camera?

Eddy Cue, Apple's head of services, has warned that if the FBI wins its case and can force Apple to produce custom software to help break into locked phones, there's nothing in principle that would stop it from seeking similar orders for custom firmware to remotely spy on users through their phones' cameras and microphones.

Security services around the world have already bought and used commercial products to do just that, but those products were produced by third parties who leveraged defects in devices' programs to install spyware. If the All Writs Act can compel the production of custom, signed software, then law enforcement could ask courts to order any custom functionality -- covert camera operation, location spying, plundering of storage at a distance.

What's more, if they can order Apple to do this, why not other companies with software-based devices? Nest could be ordered to turn off a customer's thermostat, or crank it to 110'. Chrysler could be ordered to update its Jeeps to reinstate the bug that lets Internet-based attackers drive cars off the road. HP could get orders to update its printers to send copies of all your documents to law enforcement. When you have field-updatable smart devices literally up your wazoo, the sky(net)'s the limit.

Cue said to Univision: “Someday they will want [Apple] to turn on [a user’s] camera or microphone. We can’t do that now, but what if we’re forced to do that?

“Where will this stop? In a divorce case? In an immigration case? In a tax case? Some day, someone will be able to turn on a phone’s microphone. That should not happen in this country.”

FBI could force us to turn on iPhone cameras and microphones, says Apple
[Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian]

(Image: HAL9000, Cryteria, CC-BY)