Technology Apple vs. the FBI


written for CCNews by Mike Sterling February 27, 2016

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The San Bernardino terrorists' iPhone has become the Queen in a chess game between Apple and the FBI.

The US Justice Department seeks any and all information contained on a terrorist's cell phone.  In order to do that Apple claims that they have to clone a new operating system and that would be too dangerous because it 'might' get loose and become available to others and damage the Apple brand and security. 

Tim Cook, Apple CEO says:

“Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them,” ... “But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

An order was signed Tuesday by a judge in Riverside, California asking to not necessarily break the encryption, but to allow the FBI to try millions of combinations of characters to break into the phone without the operating system wiping clean the data that now exists.

Apple insists that in order to comply, they would have to create a new operating system that they do not have in a lab that they would have to carefully construct so it would not 'leak'  information inadvertently to outsiders.  At present the iPhone will accept 10 trys and then wipe itself clean.

Cook continued:

“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.”

"FBI Supervisory Special Agent Christopher Pluhar stated in a declaration that he was able to obtain from Apple all the data backed up to its iCloud servers from the phone. That data showed that Farook (San Bernardino Terrorist) was in communication with individuals who were later killed. Significantly, Pluhar said, the most recent backup took place on Oct. 19, 2015, indicating that Farook may have intentionally disabled the backup feature."

So there is an aspect to this privacy case that Apple thinks sets a dangerous president.  Here are some facts:

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1. The terrorist did not own the phone.  It is owned by his employer, who gave the FBI permission to do anything possible to get full access.

2. The phone had regular cloud backups, but this automatic feature was disabled presumably by the terrorist on October 19th, 2015

3. The old backups were obtained from Apple and they showed that the terrorists were in contact with persons who were later killed.  So Apple gave the FBI access to private information, but not the interim information now suspected to be on the phone itself and not on the iCloud.

It appears that Apple's main argument says that the government is asking them to produce an operating system that is malware and they would have to go to extraordinary means to insure it does not get loose in to the general public and to evil doers. They do not want to compromise their brand.

Well, to me this sound like a lot of baloney.  Here is why:

1. The weakest point in any security system is the people involved.  Apple employees can make or infect any version of their OS right now, if they are clever and if they want to do so. What they are working on is always subject to leaks.  I don't think they have operating system police looking over their shoulder 24/7.

The OS checks on outgoing embedded malware are not foolproof.  People are involved, so let's not fool the public.

If, however, they would craft new software that led to a backdoor to the OS, they could create, use and destroy it after 24 hour guard.  Get rid of it after it is no longer needed.

2.  From a historical standpoint, can you imagine Winston Churchill not allowing Bletchley Park people to break the Nazi Enigma code in WWII for fear that their own people or procedures would allow the secret to get loose?  No, they had to break the code and trust their own employees.

3.  Any 'backdoor' can be boarded up and sealed in any new OS update or release.  It will not get out there anyway, because it would never get out of their sealed lab and would be destroyed.

Can't they insure the backdoor in a sealed lab for a few weeks or months?  Of course they can.  Come on now Cook ... you've not written any software lately.

The right to privacy is wonderful, but it does not extend to a device NOT owned by a terrorist but owned by the employer of the many victims and innocent people employed by the owner of the device.

Apple is acting like a martyr for taking the heat for other companies.  Again, that's nonsense.  Get with it Apple.

Bill Gates has weighed in on the subject and he disagrees with Apple.  Good for Bill.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016