Apple: FBI Wants Access To Many Different iPhones - InformationWeek

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2/24/2016
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Apple: FBI Wants Access To Many Different iPhones

Despite the FBI's insistence that it's focused on the San Bernardino terrorism case, authorities want access to more than one iPhone.

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In the name of protecting people from terrorism, the US government has gone to war against the private sector and its ability to build secure technology products. The Justice Department is seeking a court order to force Apple to create software that will enable FBI investigators to crack the password protecting encrypted data on an iPhone used by one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino terrorist attack.

The FBI insists it is making a narrow legal demand that's relevant only to a specific case. "We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly," said FBI director James Comey in a statement. "That's it. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

However, according to an Apple legal filing last week, law enforcement authorities have sought court orders to compel Apple to unlock at least a dozen other iPhones in nine cases working their way through US courts. In a list of FAQs posted on Apple's website, the company claims that law enforcement agents have said they have hundreds of phones they'd like to unlock.

Apple insists the FBI's demand is broad because it would establish a legal precedent that would allow similar demands to be made to any company or individual in the future. "If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data," said CEO Tim Cook in a letter to Apple customers.

(Image: Mutlu_Kurtbas/iStock)

(Image: Mutlu_Kurtbas/iStock)

In a New York Times op-ed column published on Monday, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton and NYPD Intelligence and Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner James J. Miller acknowledge, "The ramifications of this fight extend beyond San Bernardino." They assert that they're not asking for a back door. "Complying with constitutionally legal court orders is not 'creating a back door'; in a democracy, that is a front door."

But it remains unsettled whether or not the FBI's demand is lawful.

In a democracy, this door, whether framed as a front door or back door, is barred when authorities impose an "unreasonable burden." As George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr suggests in The Washington Post, the court system will have to decide whether the FBI's request represents an unreasonable burden. That won't be an easy decision. Kerr asks if that standard should reflect whether "the subject company has a business strategy that includes opposing government surveillance requests."

In short, is uncompromising security a legal product?

The American public narrowly favors the government. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 51% of US adults surveyed say Apple should unlock the iPhone to help the FBI. About 38% disagreed and 11% said they didn't know.

Present and former leaders of technology companies, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, have voiced support for Apple.

[Read Tim Cook vs. FBI: Why Apple Is Fighting the Good Fight.]

Technical experts largely appear to agree with Apple's characterization of the situation and of the risks compliance poses to its business. In a blog post last week, Jonathan Zdziarski, a computer security researcher and iOS forensics expert, explains that the FBI isn't asking Apple to provide the data on the iPhone in question. It's asking the company to create a forensics tool, which requires exposure of Apple's technology to third-parties.

Zdziarski goes on to suggest that the Justice Department's assertion that Apple will be able to keep its tool secret is disingenuous, because doing so would violate the norms of forensic science, where digital tools must be validated independently.

"Not only is Apple being ordered to compromise their own devices; they're being ordered to give that golden key to the government, in a very roundabout sneaky way," explains Zdziarski. "What FBI has requested will inevitably force Apple's methods out into the open, where they can be ingested by government agencies looking to do the same thing."

Indeed, if the US government can demand Apple's assistance, governments of China and Russia can be expected to seek similar service, not just from Apple, but from Google, Microsoft, and every other company.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2016 | 8:52:46 AM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
Pedro,

As the Snowden revealations of the last 2-3 years have very clearly and conclusively pointed out;Apple had no problem shipping all its customers Data Wholesale to the NSA and their sister agencies in the UK,Australia,New Zealand,Canada & Israel(Before iOS7).

Its only now that Apple has started encrypting each and every iphone at source that these Agencies have some roadblocks on their way to Total Online surveillance(atleast as far as iPhones are concerned).So we always had the Orwell 1984 sceanario here in the US(If you were/are an iPHone user).

In China,well if you work with up do date Linux Distros(with Built-in Anonymouzers) and avoid Java,Flash and Reader like the plague you will be safer than most Chinese internet users out there.

Why blame what other countries do with their Citizens if our Countries do worse?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 1:23:23 PM
Re: Democracy???
@ashu001, it started way longer than a few decades ago. The original plan was for states to have more power than the fed, that was the first power grab. Once that happened, it's all been downhill from there. That's kind of what I was alluding to saying all our systems are broken.

I'm not exactly sure where in history the government decided they needed to protect us from ourselves. Power corrupts, only leads to wanting to consolidate more power by any means necessary.

Only thing I'm not in agreement with you on is your statement Bernie and Trump are same thing. Whether you agree with Bernie on his policies, he is coming from position of really wanting to help the majority (read non rich) of Americans. Trump wants to help Trump. I don't think you'll go into Bernie's office and see pictures of himself posted all over the walls. You seen what Trump's office looks like in Trump Tower?

I'm guessing you didn't really mean it that way, just that you consider him way too left for your taste and Trump way too (fill in direction, crazy maybe?) something else. If so, pretty much how I feel also. But if push comes to shove, I'm giving Bernie a shot before Trump. It will end up being more gridlock if Bernie gets in anyway, nothing will really happen. I just hope he has a good VP because that job will kill the poor old guy.  :-)
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 12:06:13 PM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
I don't think they wanted to be successful... IMO, that was the point.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 12:04:05 PM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
I don't think I'm buying it in this case. I think they want into phones really bad, and this seemed like the perfect case to do so, with all the emotion swirling around it. The incompetence, I guess we'll see, is around how they judged the reaction would play out, and if enough people are actually paying attention to make a difference.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 12:00:50 PM
Re: Democracy???
I pretty much agree.

But, was just pointing out that I didn't see how being a democracy had much to do with the point being made. And, I wouldn't want the USA to be a democracy, as a constitutional republic (with a good constitution) is a better form of government.

But, yes, once you go postmodern (ie: reader responsive interpretation) and corrupt, with an uninformed (and propagandized public), it doesn't matter all that much how good the constitution is.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 9:43:05 AM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
@Ashu.  You are right. Both the Government and tech companies will be making a huge fuss if that happened. Now that you mentioned, if it were to happen; we will be more like china, were any company that does business there must have a monitoring program.  There, 1984 is a reality. 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 9:16:18 AM
Re: Democracy???
Steve,

Its one of the Biggest Jokes to call the US a Democracy today(unless of course the current Presidential Election really ends up electing Bernie Sanders or Trump).

Its very simply a winner takes all market;where each and every Politician is on Sale for the Right Price.

With respect to your statement HERE-

Given that the role of government is to 'protect and defend the Constitution' not 'protect the American people' it doesn't much matter that some crazy judge ordered Apple to do something unconstitutional, democracy or not.

Am I the only person here who thinks hardly any section of the US Constitution still has'nt been trampled on by the various Governments of the last 3-4 decades???


 

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 9:10:26 AM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
Steve,

My reading of the case so far gave me this basic idea-Only if you connect an iPhone to a known "Wi-Fi Network" does it backup to  the iCloud.

Apparently,the FBI was totally clueless to how this worked and try to force their hand against the in built safeguards in the iOS Operating System which eventually locked them out of the Phone entirely.

After that in their desperation they went over to Apple but then the phone was beyond useless.

If that on its own does'nt explain the total incompetence of the FBI nothing really will.

Will it?

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 9:04:01 AM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
mak63,

Its not just that aspect(where FBI screwed up so royally when it comes to these iPhones);if you simply connect an iPhone to a "known" Wi-fi Network;it automatically backsup all its Data to the iCloud.

Could'nt the FBI have simulated a known "Wi-Fi Network" in their Tech Lab for this case?

Its not that difficult(all you need to do is find out the IP Address,MAC address,and Device Details of the existing Wi-Fi router which was on its list of Known Wi-Fi Networks) and then create a Pseudo Network in the Lab.Once you have this network connected to the iPhone its then a simple question of retrieving all the relevant data either before it leaks into the iCloud or then Serving a subpeoana with Apple to retrieve the relevant data.

This is what happens when you have Full-time Government Buearacratts and not Top-notch Pros handling such issues.

Frankly speaking I am not really surprised that the FBI screwed up so badly.

 

 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2016 | 3:25:42 AM
Re: Did'nt John McAfee offer to do it for the FBI for Free?
The American government would say we can't allow the Russian, Chinese or whoever to get their hands on this tech, because only the USA are the good guys.
Anyway, I don't believe the FBI can allow McAfee to get their hands on the iPhone being evidence and such.
Why I don't get is that, someone, at the FBI requests changed the iCloud password. It's my understanding that in order to do that, you need to have the old password. I think the FBI screwed up this case (read iPhone) really bad already.
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