Imagine my surprise when I learned that someone had booked a hotel room in my name at a swanky resort in the Dominican Republic.
I’ve never actually visited the island of Hispanola. I only know about the resort because the bill ($220, hence my use of the word “swanky”) was charged to my credit card. My identity, it seems, had been stolen.
So like a lot of other folks, I called the credit company, disputed the charge and was immediately issued a new card. A customer security specialist named “Harold,” who despite his name spoke with a thick Asian accent, was deeply sympathetic and especially helpful.
The whole thing took 20 minutes and I appreciated Harold’s efforts.
Despite the ease in which my situation was resolved, it still leaves you a little concerned about online and digital safety. So when I read last week that a federal judge had ordered Apple to help the FBI break into an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernadino killers, I wasn’t sure that was such a good idea.
Like many people, I own an iPhone. And like many people, most of my personal and financial information is either stored on it or has been tapped into it. One of the reasons I bought an iPhone (that is, in addition to the cool, sleek design and gorgeous display) was because of Apple’s operating code has a reputation of being more difficult to hack.
Here’s what the FBI would like Apple to do. All iPhones have a security option that allows only a certain number of tries to guess the correct passcode to unlock the device. I’ve actually run into this feature a number of times because I can’t seem to remember passwords and can’t seem to remember to write them down.
Anyway, the FBI doesn’t know the passcode for this phone and if they use up their attempts, the phone’s data will be deleted. So agents want Apple to write a program that will disable this security feature so they can guess as many times as it takes to unlock the iPhone.
This is a big deal, because once that program exists, the chances increase that it will fall into the hands of thieves and others that steal people’s identity for a living. It’s a question of people’s privacy vs. national security.
Now, I favor national security but question if it’s really necessary in this case. The killers are dead. The FBI already has a good idea what they plotted and who helped them. Will unlocking an iPhone really shed that much more light on the case? Will it provide an entrance into the soft underbelly of a terrorist network?
Will compromising iPhone security lead to widespread identity theft? Again, maybe.
Keep in mind, after Edward Snowden revealed that our government was using similar software to spy on Americans, Apple, Facebook and Twitter decided to close all backdoors used to access account information.
Although I don’t minimize the deaths suffered in 9/11 or San Bernadino, it’s many times more likely that you or your neighbor will have your identity stolen than be injured or killed in a terrorist attack on American soil.
Again, it’s a tough choice.
But in the end, I’m not sure I want to have my personal information compromised just on the off chance a dead terrorist’s cellphone might yield information.
Of course, maybe I’ll reconsider while sipping a cool beverage on the white sand beaches next to a swanky Domincan Republic resort.