Apple: Terrorist’s Apple ID password changed in government custody, blocking access

“The Apple ID password linked to the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists was changed less than 24 hours after the government took possession of the device, senior Apple executives said Friday,” John Paczkowski reports for Buzzfeed. “If that hadn’t happened, Apple said, a backup of the information the government was seeking may have been accessible.”

“Now, the government, through a court order, is demanding Apple build what the company considers a special backdoor way into the phone — an order that Apple is challenging,” Paczkowski reports. “The executives said the company had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a backdoor. One of those methods would have involved connecting the iPhone to a known Wi-Fi network and triggering an iCloud backup that might provide the FBI with information stored to the device between the October 19th and the date of the incident.”

“Apple sent trusted engineers to try that method, the executives said, but they were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID password associated with the iPhone had been changed. (The FBI claimed earlier Friday that this was done by someone at the San Bernardino Health Department),” Paczkowski reports. “Had that password not been changed, the executives said, the government would not need to demand the company create a “backdoor” to access the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who died in a shootout with law enforcement after a terror attack in California that killed 14 people.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Government intelligence.

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away. — Ronald Reagan

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[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Bill” for the heads up.]

48 Comments

    1. The FBI did not change the password; the county govt did, as they are the owners of the iPhone. They probably had no idea how iCloud backups work, and once the iPhone was back in their possession, they simply changed the Apple ID password.

      Now that means that at least they know the password for the Apple ID. Presumably they were able to do this because the ID is tied to the guy’s work email and they have access to that.

      Now the guy’s iPhone hadn’t run an iCloud backup for a while, so even had this password not been changed there is no certainty that iCloud backups was still turned on.

      It’s an interesting point, but really irrelevant to the case at hand. Regardless, the FBI is still compelled to zealously investigate the case.

      1. You are making assumptions. Why would the FBI give the iPhone back to the county? The FBI’s security experts should of known the iPhone’s security protocol, unless this was a planned ruse to make Apple to create a “Backdoor”. See, I made an assumption just like you did.

        Another thing that stinks about this whole fiasco is the fact that the DOJ is saying Apple is doing this as a marketing stunt. This “marketing” language has been used by Apple competitors/ astroturfers for years. Is the DOJ being bribed/”influenced” again like they could of been by Amazon during the book case? Oops, there I go again with conjecture, just like your assumption that some moron at county just randomly reset the password without FBI approval.

        1. First off, the FBI did not give the iPhone back to the county; the Apple ID can be and is changed independent of having the iPhone. In fact given that the iPhone is locked no one could have used the iPhone to reset the Apple ID password. That can be done through the Apple ID website. So perhaps you already don’t understand the technicalities.

          This is the problem with people jumping to conclusions without having the all of the facts. First off, the passcode to the iPhone, which is what the FBI wants, is not the same as the Apple ID password. Second, as noted, to change it you don’t need the iPhone in your possession. The iPhone probably has an Apple ID tied to the county government, and that is how they were able to change it in the first place. But most people commenting on this probably don’t know squat about that.

          As to the DOJ language, well, emotions are starting to flare up. The DOJ is charged with the job of protecting the citizens from things like terrorist attacks. If another one were to happen in the San Bernadino area, from someone tied to the dead terrorists…then guess who gets the blame? They are trying to do their job. Their job is different from Apple’s job. No one is a bad guy in this scenario except for the terrorists…we just have two competing interests. That is what democracy is all about; working this out.

          1. It would be more enlightening if squat were known. But I’ll bet the government comes to regret the day they tried to use a public spectacle to force Apples hand. The changed AppleID is owned by someone who will be identified. Apple wanted to do this under seal, the DOJ chose open court.

            1. What happens if the FBI simply asks the person who changed the Appleid to tell them? You’d think the problem would be solved. I just noticed a crawler on television and this is now being reported.

              The evidence (iPhone 5c) has been tampered with by a governmental body. Sorry FBI, you lost.

      2. Yes, it was the county at the direction of the FBI. There is now a news story about this. They clearly wanted to make an example of Apple more than they wanted the data

    2. You folks heard about rocks and hard places? If the FBI had not told the county to change the Apple ID, any third party who knew the original ID could have changed it to one the FBI did not know. That might have prevented access to the encrypted backups down to October 19. Changing the ID removed that possibility, and the chance that an outside party who knew the password might corrupt the data. It turns out that it also removed the best bet for recovering the newer data on the device, but that was probably not recognized at the time and might have been considered a reasonable trade off if it was.

  1. If that is the case, then the fault lies with the owner of the phone. I was thinking this was part of a federal game to force the particular situation, destroy all reasonable access in order to make an unreasonable solution the only one left.

    Maybe we could simply say that the owner of the phone should either be charged with destruction of evidence or it’s accidental and unfortunate.

    1. First, let’s get something straight. The apple ID password was changed, but that is not the passcode to the iPhone. I’ve read a lot of discussion and many people are confused about that.

      There is no “fault” here; county govt acted in good faith, changing the Apple ID password. Not changing it MAY have negated this whole issue and allowed the FBI to make and access an updated iCloud backup.

      But regardless, the issue is irrelevant. The FBI and DOJ are still required to investigate this case to the fullest. Say a mistake was made; well, guess what, they still want to get to the truth. Mistakes are made all the time by everyone in every organization. Imagine if someone were trying to kill you and the police were investigating to find out and stop it. Imagine if someone made a mistake along the way. Would you want them to just say to you, well, someone made a mistake, we can’t investigate or try to protect you any further?

      This is becoming a very technical debate but unfortunately much of the public is confused as to what the facts are.

      1. So you are asking me, if my life were in danger, would I want the FBI to crack into my phone, by any means, if it meant I would be saved? Let’s say they had other means, but because of something, like a coworker or significant other did that made the other means unviable. There is only one choice left, my phone and in the balance all other phones.

        Guess what, I refuse to go there. For one it’s not a fair question. Technically I would be under duress, my life would be on the line.

        However let’s not forget that one victim’s mother is facing this reality and she made the choice to let it end, here and now.

        If Apple does what is asked by the court, the misconception is that it’s for only one phone. The reality it’s for all phones. Why?

        Let’s say there’s a door with a lock, but this lock is special. It has no hole for a key. We don’t know what key fits, but we do know there’s no hole. Apple is being asked to invent a hole, for the lock they designed. The tricky part, the hole design could be placed on any lock, because that’s the nature of the lock. Once the hole is made, the FBI can use lock picking tools to open the door. This sets a precedent that companies must design defeat mechanisms for locked stuff because to solve crimes agencies need access. It’s not that they need it, it’s that they know there’s a place with information. This addictive mystery could solve their case. Let’s say the information is in your mind. They will torture you to get at it. Someday they will come up with a way to read your mind, dead or alive. Hunger is a very powerful instinct and nothing is too sacred.

        True story. There a group on YouTube, which shows how to unlock safes that are designed to be very protective. The interesting thing, the defeat mechanisms are very simple and fast. Mostly magnets placed on specific locations of the safe, the door pops open. Is this a bad design? The safes shown are expensive and strong. I would think this is designed on purpose.

        If you put a defeat design onto any system, it will get out and both good and bad guys will learn about it and exploit it, before you or I will ever know.

        Microsoft wireless keyboards for a time could all be read from remote, with little trouble. The security was pathetic, and not encrypted, just hashed.

        There are examples in our technical world, that shows security is not a primary goal.

        As far as accidents, they happen all the time. People die senseless deaths. We have to keep some things sacred, which means that some people will die, seemingly senseless deaths. Rather than cry over what we could have done, let’s remember the lost as being heroes. This is a two way street here.

        As far as this particular case, I think it is obvious that the password should not have been changed. It was a foolish mistake rather than an honest mistake. In a murder investigation the first thing CSI tells you to do, is “NOTHING”. Since this was a terrorist action, the best team was on the job. Someone knew, maybe was told to change the password. IMHO

        FBI is not interested in the data. They want the hole to put their tools into. McAfee said he would do it, not that he can, but he doesn’t want Apple to be forced to make the hole. When it comes to security, there are always loopholes because we are still human and imperfect. McAfee gets into the phone by exploit, Apple patches the exploit for iOS 10. Done. If the FBI is serous about getting into the phone and not about making holes in locks, then they should jump on McAfee’s offer and drop the case against Apple.

        Apple should not be forced to sign any code, so it will run on the iPhone. That is like you being forced to sign a statement that you don’t want to make.

          1. You have lost. This is not about me, you have gone off topic and insulted me at the same time. The replier’s logic was asking me to argue my point with a rope around my neck. That is not an appropriate thing to do.

      2. This is yet another ruse to deceive Americans into believing they must give up their privacy and freedom in order to be safe. Sadly, the average American is an apathetic and uneducated drone who will believe what ever the MSM and thereby the government tells them to believe.

  2. So the AppleID password was changed by someone in government less than 24 hours after the iPhone came into its possession. Aren’t the automatic iPhone backups to iCloud also encrypted by the AppleID PW? If your iPhone is stolen, the backup data stored in the iCloud can be restored to a new iPhone if that iCloud PW is known. Someone outside/inside government with access to a computer and knowledge of the original PW must have reset the PW. Obviously, it wasn’t the dead terrorists that did it.

    1. Let’s break out the conspiracy theories. How about this one: someone working with the terrorists changed the password, knowing the trick of the iCloud backup. That someone still works for the county govt. If the FBI had access to the iPhone they would find that out. Like something out of the show “24.”

      See, anyone can play this game. And for the record, I am being facetious; I don’t believe the conspiracy theory I just cited, nor any of these others. Occam’s razor. Someone at the county just reset the password; probably thought they were making the account more secure from any other terrorist working with the dead terrorists.

      1. Apple has time, date stamp of password change. Add the IP address and ISP info, that should get you a user and street address or GPS.
        Now if done on a throw away smart phone, then no dice.

    2. That idea is consistent with their obvious and stated desire to bring Apple to their knees as they have apparently done with the rest of the tech firms who lack cojones.

      I have never been so ashamed of my adopted country.

      1. That conspiracy idea is consistent with nothing factual. Show me where the govt has stated they “desire to bring Apple to their knees”…and how have they done that to the rest of the tech companies?

        People invent conspiracy theories when they cannot know or understand reality. In this case we the public are dealing with many unknowns; it’s natural to try to fill in the blanks. But of course that can take us far from the truth.

        The problem with arguing this case with the absurd theories is that it takes away from discussion of the real merits.

      2. It’s only your spook agencies that are suspect here. America if fine – someone has to explore the legal vistas opened by new technology and of course it’s bound to be the USA. Likewise the Rayon Man, I’m sure you guys will stop and have a good laugh at some stage.

      3. It turns out I was correct. It was the logical explanation …
        “The San Bernardino County government on Friday night said the FBI told its staff to tamper with the Apple account of Syed Farook, who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, … The development matters because the change made to the account – a reset of Farook’s iCloud password – made it impossible to see if there was another way to get access to data on the shooter’s iPhone without taking Apple to court.

  3. I’ve had CSI friends tell me (before all this) that they were able to unlock iPhones. I asked, “even the newer IOS 8 and 9 iPhones? I thought that was encrypted?” They told me they could do it, it was very difficult and time consuming, but it could be done. In fact they told me they do it all the time. They also told me Android phones are MUCH easer to unlock.
    I don’t mean to sound like one of those conspiracy people, but this makes me wonder if the FBI already got what they needed from the iPhone and are just using this to get a court precedent ruling.

  4. And do not forget once Apple creates the “key” and can access the information within house. Guess what is next? Well, this is one possible approach.

    Uh, this would be the FBI.
    Mr. Cook, we have a situation here. We have an iPhone and due to national security and the details on this phone are classified at the highest executive level. We can not release this phone to your in house team and due to possible threat to the data, the phone must remain in our secure and controlled environment. Oh, sorry- civilians are not allowed at this facility. So, we are requesting that you provide the software and provide our agent with the method to gain access to said phone. You have provide this request before and we know you understand our need for compliance in this national security issue. By the way, we also have that secret group of judges that agree with us and will provide the legal compliance order. Our agents will arrive tomorrow to begin the process. Once completed, all your software will be destroyed and our agents informed to forget the process.
    Thanks in advance for your required compliance.

  5. The FBI will be true to the words in the request, they destroy Apples original software and the agents trained by Apple are told to forget what they learned. But, the surveillance group that recorded the method cut and tuck a beautiful training video of it and send out copies they made. All the intelligence groups receive there training package. But, soon a compromised computer allows the Russians, Chinese, United Kingdom, and South Korea to obtain the same.

    Now it is all about writing nasty, clever hacks and apps, that can further attack nation state networks, Judges, Sentors, Congressman, and corporate leaders account. Hell, even leader of different countries- to name a few. All because someone in the executive branch had to have it the easy way.

  6. Is this the same governmental incompetence at all levels that also led to the San Bernardino attack in the first place?

    What efforts did the FBI take to secure the iPhone with the local governmental agency that was the employer of the iPhone owner?

    Seems like the same efficiency was applied here as was applied to the government bureaucrats who vetted San Barnardino’s Islamic Terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s Pakistani wife to be.

    Which is to say, not much!- http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-did-tashfeen-malik-slip-through-u-s-vetting-process/

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