Using an obscure law written in 1789 – the All Writs Act – the US Government has ordered Apple to place a backdoor into its iOS software so the FBI can decrypt information on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
It has finally come to this. After years of arguments by virtually every industry specialist saying that backdoors will be a bigger boon to hackers and to our nation's enemies than publishing our nuclear codes and giving the keys to all of our military weapons to the Russians and the Chinese, our government has chosen once again to not listen to the minds that have created the glue that holds this world together.
This is a black day, and the beginning of the end for the US as a world power. The government has ordered a disarmament of our already ancient cybersecurity and cyberdefence systems and is asking us to take a walk into that near horizon where cyberwar is unquestionably waiting, with nothing more than harsh words as a weapon, and the hope that our enemies will take pity at our unarmed condition and treat us fairly.
Any student of world history will tell you that this is a dream. Would Hitler have stopped invading Poland if the Polish people had sweetly asked him not to do so? Those who think so should stand strongly by Hilary Clinton's side, whose cybersecurity platform includes negotiating with the Chinese so that they will no longer launch cyberattacks against us.
It'll only be used once?
The FBI, in a laughable and bizarre twist of logic, said that the backdoor would be used only once, and only in the San Bernardino case.
More about the San Bernardino shooting
On 2 December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The couple died hours later in a shootout with police.
A US federal judge has ordered Apple to help the FBI decrypt an iPhone 5C used by Farook. The FBI believes the phone has vital clues that could lead them to the handlers of Farook and Malik, and whether the radicalised couple acted independently or had links to the Islamic State (Isis) militant group.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, replied:
"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.
The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe."
No matter how you slice this pie, if the government succeeds in getting this backdoor then it will eventually get a backdoor into all encryption, and our world, as we know it, is over. In spite of the FBI's claim that they would protect the backdoor we all know that that is impossible.
There are bad apples everywhere and there only needs to be one in the US government. Then a few million dollars, some beautiful women (or men), and a yacht trip to the Caribbean might be all it takes for our enemies to have full access to our secrets.
"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control," said Cook.
Why can't the FBI crack the encryption on its own?
With all due respect to Tim Cook and Apple, I work with a team of the best hackers on the planet. They attend Defcon in Las Vegas and are notorious in hacking circles. They are all prodigies, with talents that defy normal human comprehension. About 75% of them are social engineers, the remainder are hardcore coders. I would eat my shoe live on national television if we could not break the encryption on the San Bernardino iPhone. This is a pure and simple fact.
So why don't the best hackers on the planet work for the FBI? Because the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge ear piercings, a tattooed face, who demands to smoke weed while working, and won't accept less than a half million dollars a year.
But you can bet your ass that the Chinese and Russians are hiring similar people with similar demands and have been for many years. It's why the US is decades behind in the cyber race.
Cyber science is not just something you can learn. It is an innate talent. The Julliard School of Music cannot create a Mozart. A Mozart or a Bach are genetically created – much like our modern hacking community. A room full of Stanford Computer Science graduates cannot compete with a true hacker who doesn't even hold a high school education.
Here is my offer to the FBI
I will, for free, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino iPhone with my team. We will primarily use social engineering and it will take us three weeks. If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a backdoor in their product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.
If you doubt my credentials, Google "Cybersecurity legend" and see whose name is the only name that appears in the first ten out of over a quarter of a million results.
Who is John McAfee?
John McAfee is one of the most influential commentators on cyber-security anywhere in the world.
His new venture – Future Tense Central – focuses on security and personal privacy-related products. In September, McAfee announced he will be running for US president in 2016.
McAfee provides regular insight on global hacking scandals and internet surveillance, and has become a hugely controversial figure following his time in Belize, where he claims to have exposed corruption at the highest level before fleeing the country amid accusations of murder (the Belize government is currently not pursuing any accusations against him).
McAfee was a finalist at the 2015 Comment Awards for his work for IBTimes UK.