Here’s Why We Need to Make the iPhone Even Harder to Break Into

Last summer, I couldn’t remember the unlock pattern for my phone. 

It was a brand new Samsung Galaxy S10, and it was one of those nightmare scenarios where my brain had locked me out as much as the phone itself. It was like trying to remember the name of a classic science fiction movie or the address of my childhood home.

I tried and tried, to no avail. Up, then down, slide down, then to the corner? Or was it up, then down, slide diagonally, then over and down? I couldn’t remember and I was stressed.

The phone didn’t even belong to me, it was a loaner. I had loaded my credit card information into the Samsung Pay digital wallet and auto-saved most of the passwords for my apps.

I wish I could say the story ended by using a brute force password generator, but I never remembered the pattern to this day. And that’s a good thing.

I was in a panic over this issue, but not quite as much of a panic as you might imagine. At the very least, I know that while the data on that phone is not accessible to me, it is not accessible to anyone else either. I still have the device in my office, but if it ever does fall into the wrong hands, I know my credit card data and apps are safe. 

Imagine a scenario where officials do have easier access.

You’re on a trip to the Cancun. You snap a few weird photos, maybe it’s a drinking game and you were just having fun. Your boss decides to confiscate your phone. She’s heard rumors. With one call, she reaches out to a local FBI office and expresses concern.

In a few clicks, they’re in. There’s a backdoor, and local authorities only needed permission from your employer based on nothing more than a suspicion and a hunch.

Phones should be harder to break into, not easier. This will certainly make them less compelling to thieves, but what I’m even more interested in is the long-term security and peace of mind when any possible scenario pops up where someone else might have my phone. 

I want a phone that I can misplace, or drop down a cavern, or give to a friend, (sorry, Rob) and trust that it can exist anywhere in the wild, at any time now or in the future, and know it’s a useless brick no matter what. I want phones that are so incredibly secure that no mastermind at an intelligence agency can use an unlock procedure unless there’s a court order.

In short, phones should be harder for authorities (and criminals) to unlock, not easier. A phone that could make its way across the ocean and fall into the hands of a guy named Serge who won’t have a clue what to do with it. Phones that still contain access to my credit card number, email, and apps, but only if I’m using the phone.

Take that a step further. Your phone could end up on Craigslist a decade from now–retrieved from the bottom of a gutter–and you won’t have to worry. The goal is to improve security to the point where nothing can be unlocked without a Herculean act of legal precedence.

The only worry? That the phone is useless to me. That’s stressful enough.

Published on: Jan 27, 2020

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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