Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks that hackers could use a smartphone to bring down the electric grid.
Cook made the admission during a wide-ranging interview with Time in which he defended the company’s stance on encryption and its opposition to an FBI request to unlock a terrorist’s smartphone.
The world needs more encryption, Cook said, not less.
“Think about the things that are on people’s phones,” Cook said. “Their kids’ locations are on there. You can see scenarios that are not farfetched at all where you can take down power grids going through a smart phone.”
Cook did not go into details, although he mentioned the power grid danger several times during the interview.
“Think about the people that are on a device, a medical device that depends on electricity,” Cook said. “And of course hospitals have generators, etc, but there’s a lot of people out in homes that do not. These are real things, these aren’t fantasy things by any means.”
Although hospitals do have generators, those generators typically would work only for days – and not weeks and months if the power grid were down for an extended period of time.
The technology industry veteran believes that the FBI’s opposition to encryption is a threat to privacy and to the nation’s security.
“I think it makes the US much more vulnerable,” Cook said. “Not only in privacy but also in security. The national infrastructure, everything.
“There’s financial information [on smartphones],” he pointed out. “There’s your conversations, there’s business secrets. There’s an enormous long list of things that there’s probably more information about you on here than exists in your home, right. Which makes it a lot more valuable to all the bad guys out there.”
The FBI says it only wants Cook to unlock one smartphone, but Cook says that the request would impact far more than just him.
“The thing that they want me to invent, that key can turn millions of locks,” he said. “…to invent what they want me to invent puts millions of people at risk.”
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