iPhone people: Time to erase your naked selfies

Those with delicate privacy sensibilities or who thought Apple was a cultural phenomenon rather than a shrewd manufacturer, well, sorry if you're disappointed. ...

So it’s done. Somehow — nobody is saying exactly how — the Justice Department cracked or had someone crack the locked iPhone owned by one of the slain San Bernardino terror shooters. Now the court showdown between Apple and the FBI won’t happen. I imagine FBI chief Jim Comey saying to Tim Cook, “Nah na na na boooo booo!” And Apple’s Tim Cook saying, “Holy #$%^& &##!!&@*%%!”

Maybe it’s a conspiracy between the two, and everybody gets to save face.  Nah.

Little detail came out initially. The Associated Press had a one-line story. Some of the newspapers eked out a couple of paragraphs, adding background. Court filings say the Justice Department asked to vacate a now-moot order, which Apple had vigorously contested. It sought to force the company to program a way around the iPhone locking mechanism, which erases a phone before someone can try 9,999 combinations of the 4-digit code (or 999,999 of the 6-digit).

Later, a Justice spokeswoman said breezily, the FBI was at work reviewing the data it siphoned from the phone.

The FBI is known for its cyber chops. If in fact is was the FBI techs that did this, I say, whoa dudes!

Now I’m wondering, will the Justice Department tell Apple how it cracked iPhone security? Why? So Apple can fix the vulnerability? Not likely. You can bet Apple engineers are working ’round the clock to find out what happened.

Funny that the news came via iPhone. Within a span of 120 seconds, the AP, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times all sent alerts that lit up my iPhone on my desk in front of me. Whether it has always be crackable has never been of interest. I treat my devices such that if someone got all of the data, it might be an annoyance but it wouldn’t ruin my life or embarrass me. I’m boring anyhow. But to those hipsters with delicate privacy sensibilities or who thought Apple was a cultural phenomenon rather that a shrewd manufacturer packing excellent software in pretty hardware, well, sorry if you’re disappointed.

This is an old story in cybersecurity. If someone human coded the iPhone locking mechanism, a human can eventually decode it. It’s apparently not the strong encryption that Justice hacked, but rather the key. Eventually, the identity of the hacker will come out — these facts always do.

For now, the  pleasant fantasy of the uncrackable iPhone is blown. You knew it had to happen eventually, like the first scratch on your new car. Time to erase those naked selfies. Don’t forget Photo Stream.

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More commentary from Tom Temin