Apple to Australia: This is no time to weaken encryption; access only for ‘good guys’ is a false premise

“Apple has filed its formal opposition to a new bill currently being proposed by the Australian government that critics say would weaken encryption,” Cyrus Farivar reports for Ars Technica. “If it passes, the ‘Assistance and Access Bill 2018’ would create a new type of warrant that would allow what governments often call ‘lawful access’ to thwart encryption, something that the former Australian attorney general proposed last year.”

“The California company said in a filing provided to reporters on Friday that the proposal was flawed,” Farivar reports. “‘This is no time to weaken encryption,’ the company wrote. ‘There is profound risk of making criminals’ jobs easier, not harder. Increasingly stronger — not weaker — encryption is the best way to protect against these threats.'”

“‘Some suggest that exceptions can be made, and access to encrypted data could be created just for only those sworn to uphold the public good,’ Apple continued,” Farivar reports. “‘That is a false premise. Encryption is simply math. Any process that weakens the mathematical models that protect user data for anyone will by extension weaken the protections for everyone. It would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hopefully, the Aussies file the ill-considered “Assistance and Access Bill 2018” into the bin where it belongs.

Again, encryption is binary; it’s either on or off. You cannot have both. You either have privacy via full encryption or you don’t by forcing back doors upon Apple or anybody else. It’s all or nothing. — MacDailyNews, March 8, 2017

SEE ALSO:
Apple urges Australian government not to destroy encryption with ‘backdoors’ – October 12, 2018
Apple, other tech giants denounce proposed Australian law seeking encryption ‘backdoor’ – October 3, 2018
More proof that iPhone backdoors are a stupid idea: Massive cache of law enforcement personnel data leaks – July 2, 2018
Bipartisan ‘Secure Data Act’ would make it illegal for U.S. government to demand backdoors – May 11, 2018
Bill Gates thinks Apple should unlock iPhones at the government’s request – February 13, 2018
FBI Director Wray calls inability to access electronic devices an ‘urgent public safety issue’ – January 9, 2018
Tim Cook’s refusal to create iPhone backdoor for FBI vindicated by ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack on Windows PCs – May 15, 2017
The Microsoft Tax: Leaked NSA malware hijacks Windows PCs worldwide; Macintosh unaffected – May 13, 2017
Bungling Microsoft singlehandedly proves that ‘back doors’ are a stupid idea – August 10, 2016
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu says strong encryption without backdoors is a ‘national security priority’ – April 29, 2016
iPhone backdoors would pose a threat, French privacy chief warns – April 8, 2016
The U.S. government’s fight with Apple could backfire big time – March 14, 2016
Obama pushes for iPhone back door; Congressman Issa blasts Obama’s ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ – March 12, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch backs U.S. government overreach on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – March 11, 2016
Former CIA Director: FBI wants to dictate iPhone’s operating system – March 11, 2016
FBI warns it could demand Apple’s iPhone code and secret electronic signature – March 10, 2016
California Democrat Diane Feinstein backs U.S. government overreach over Apple – March 10, 2016
Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’ – March 10, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashes out at Obama administration over encryption, bemoans White House lack of leadership – January 13, 2016
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013

57 Comments

  1. “Back doors” in electronics means that if you want a secure device in the future, you would have to get such a device from the Government, because they would be the only one with the power to “keep secrets.”

    In practice, what this might mean is that a person using “backdoored” computing devices might be forced to never leave data on the insecure devices by moving off all data after it is created. What a pain.

  2. There’s a good chance that this bill will pass though I hope not. Empowering the people is not where a lot of governments have their head spaces, it’s all about control and avoiding the issue while all the while insulting anyone who has a different idea, at least for a uniform uninformed society.

    1. As usual, C.S. Lewis predicted all this. He foresaw the day when the very concept of scientific facts became controversial. Yes, scientists and engineers with decades of training and experience say that it is simply impossible to develop a secure backdoor. If proper authorities with a warrant can get in, so can anybody else. If criminals cannot get in, neither can the government.

      The Australian politicians say, “So what? That is just the opinion of an elitist clique, no doubt based on their anti-big-government politics. That is not our opinion, based on our political requirements to fight crime and terrorism. We were elected, so we have better politics. That means that our opinion prevails, so either build the secure backdoor or go to jail.”

      Way back in 1943, Lewis published a little book called The Abolition of Man. The premise was that powerful social forces were seeking to uproot the very notion of “human nature.” The proposed substitute regarded all reality as socially constructed, so there was no way to privilege one set of values over another. Modern society had moved beyond Good and Evil to a recognition that everything was relative. There was no real distinction between true or false because there was no distinction between facts and opinions. Indeed, there were no proper facts at all, only “my truth” and “your truth,” which were equally valid alternatives.

      As Wikipedia summarizes the book, the end of this process would be when the values and morals of the majority are controlled by a small group who rule by manipulation and who (being able to “see through” any external values that might influence them to act in a certain way) are ruled only by their own unreflected whims.

      Lewis was specifically aiming at current trends in the teaching of high-school English that leveled the distinction between great literature and gibberish by focusing on the feelings generated in the reader rather than on the values expressed by the author. For seven decades, Anglo-American conservatives used the Lewis argument as an indictment of liberal academics and politicians who were driven by a “feelings first” agenda that ignored the realities of human existence.

      The irony is that some who now call themselves “conservatives” have adopted the same approach of rejecting supposedly objective facts as socially constructed, arguing that “my truth” in all matters is just an expression of my suspect (and therefore necessarily leftist) politics. “Their truth” based on “alternative facts” is superior because they are politically pure. There is no “absolute truth” in the sense of an objective reality.

      These folks—-and there are liberals just as bad—-provide no proof of their truth’s superiority. They cannot, because “proof” is a meaningless concept when any possible evidence is no more than an expression of personal politics. Ask them to support their position and they will dodge the question because there is no possible objective answer. Their arguments against their opponents are necessarily ad hominem because there is no other basis for argument. CNN (or Fox) publishes “fake news,” not because it is factually wrong (there is no such thing), but because it is politically suspect.

      Take this approach just a little further, and there is no such thing as a scientific fact, either. Computer Science (like Climate Science) is only the reflection of the political stance of its proponents. If I don’t like their politics, I need not accept “their facts.” It’s all about feelings, since one man’s opinion is just as good as another’s, and all so-called facts are just puffed-up opinions.

      It works the other way, too. You can label a man’s politics based on his “factual” conclusions. If a Computer Scientist claims a backdoor is impossible, he must be a political supporter of anarchy. If a Climate Scientist supports global warming, she must be a tree-hugging libtard. If a judge rules that Bush beat Gore, she cannot possibly be following an objective rule of law that exists apart from Republican politics. If a judge votes with the 7-2 majority in Roe v. Wade, he cannot possibly be following an objective rule of law that exists apart from Democratic politics.

      So, we are now at the point where the Australian Government feels it has the authority to command a scientific impossibility. If they get away with it, most other governments will follow.

      1. Well then we need to ask ourselves if encryption is a munition to be used only by the government.

        Not claiming I know the answer. But there is room for a reasoned discussion.

        1. You shouldn’t waste our time asking a question that has already been answered. However, to save you the trouble of learning to read:

          Australia is yet another victim of the modern philosophy that denies the existence of objective facts, such as the impossibility of providing a safe backdoor to circumvent encryption. If scientific facts are no more than political opinions, the government (like anybody else) can make up its own alternative facts to support its selfish choices. No, I do not agree with that.

          1. Not alternative facts dear sir, conflicting facts. It is fact that there is no such thing as perfectly safe backdoors, it is fact that there is no perfect unbreakable security, it is fact that law enforcement can legally search and seize with a warrant….

            1. You are spot on in regards to security. Case in point, the 16-year old Australian Apple hacker. If this law is passed, it will be child’s play for hacker criminals. But then again, the left has no problem with criminals…

            2. applecynic, I agree that the facts you state are all true. They aren’t conflicting facts, however, because all can be, and are, true at the same time.

              The only conflict is the Australian (and FBI) insistence that the existence of a warrant suspends the fact that there is no such thing as a perfectly safe backdoor. If their “alternative facts” were true, mandating a backdoor open only to police with a warrant would be an excellent idea. The “real fact.” however, is that any backdoor would facilitate far more crime than it would stop.

            3. @TxUser
              In logic, as well as the natural world, there are conflicting, opposing forces such as facts.

              What you described as an “ALTERNATE FACT” is not a fact at all. You are correct that there is no “safe backdoor”. But a warrant can supersede the fact. Just like in the real world, a warrant is consistent with a “reasonable” search and seizure. There is no analogue in the digital world.

              In the real world, with a warrant, you can break a door, a window, a safe (and manufacturers cooperate), etc. You can even cavity search, but my phone? Now that crosses the line! Really?

            4. Applecynic, I didn’t say that iPhones are not amenable to search pursuant to a warrant. Of course they are. Someone below makes the argument that they contain our inmost thoughts, so they should be sacrosanct under the Fifth Amendment, rather than subject to the reasonable search provisions of the Fourth. Sorry, but that stagecoach left the station when Madison allowed the government (under limited circumstances) to invade your home and read your diary. There’s nothing in anybody’s iPhone that wasn’t in somebody’s eighteenth-century journal.

              That isn’t the conflict here. Australia is not just saying that it has the right to execute a search of an iPhone and decrypt its contents, but that it has the right to force Apple to do the impossible: to build a means into its products that will make such searches easy without destroying device security. The notion that such a thing is possible is an “alternative fact,” which you or I would simply label as untrue. It isn’t a lie, because they have convinced themselves that “their truth” is just as valid as “Apple’s truth.”

              If it WERE possible to have a foolproof backdoor that allowed easy access with a warrant and nearly impossible access without one, the Fourth (and Fourteenth) Amendment would be satisfied if each individual search was constitutionally reasonable. Under those circumstances, AND ONLY THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, it would be proper for Australia (as well as the US and everywhere else) to require manufacturers to enable these lawful searches without facilitating illegal ones. Without those circumstances, Australia is asking Apple to act as an accessory to millions of unlawful searches by both overzealous police and common criminals.

            5. The “left” certainly has problems with criminals and criminal activity.

              The “right” appears to be electing and appointing criminals in increasing numbers at the highest levels of the federal and state governments.

              To paraphrase a prominent person: Sad. Very sad.

          2. “You shouldn’t waste our time asking a question that has already been answered.”

            You DID NOT answer the question. You danced around it in your typical tedious insinuating style.

            Then you attack me for the third time stating I can’t read. What’s next, I can’t write? Stick to the truth it’s much better than lying and will make Mom proud.

            “If scientific facts are no more than political opinions, the government (like anybody else) can make up its own alternative facts to support its selfish choices. No, I do not agree with that.”

            You do not agree with mixing science with opinion, yes fine.

            Now, do you agree or disagree with Australia passing this law?A simple answer yes or no will suffice. Not interested in more insinuating deflection…

            1. Thank you for illustrating my thesis.

              I stated (twice) that the Australian bill is bad public policy because it mandates scientific nonsense based on philosophical incoherence. Before “The Abolition of Man” took root, there would have been no need to add “…therefore I oppose the bill and expect all other rational beings to do the same.”

              It is now apparently necessary to add that because so many people no longer regard bad policy, scientific nonsense, and philosophical incoherence as valid objections. Decisions are now to be made on the basis of whether they provide a short-term feeling of gratification. Scientific facts can be ignored because they are mere opinions that can be replaced with more convenient “facts.”

              So, we get the Australian Parliament considering a bill to reverse the fact that backdoors are even more dangerous than the hazards they are intended to combat. We get American legislatures actually passing bills that mandate how fast sea level is allowed to rise for planning purposes. We get economic policies that provide a short-term sugar high because the long-term consequences of massive debt can be replaced with alternative facts.

              Your insistence that it is not enough for someone to point out the facts without also stating how he feels about them perfectly illustrates the problem.

            2. TxUser, you insinuated twice. Now after all this time and off topic voluminous words and tedious deflection we finally get a firm answer. Gotcha, you are a pathetic stalker and I have no time for you…

          3. CS Lewis is required reading for perspective as are the Cold War spy novels by John le Carreé. In Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy (if my memory is correct), there is a passage dealing with why nations spy on their own citizens which poses the question ‘Since we spy on other nations citizens to gain insight on ‘their’ government actions, should we allow other nations to know more about our own citizens than we do?’
            The conclusion being it is an necessary evil – abhorrent but unavoidable if we wish to preserve sovereignty. Justification is gained by the general populace accepting this ‘necessary evil’ at face value and trusting the competence of the agencies, charged with their protection – to do the right thing.
            The message seems to be, it’s inevitable because bad actors will exploit what you don’t know and you won’t know it when they do unless you have the same data. Intrusive though it may be.
            The trick as always, is accountability, oversight and ‘who polices the police’ if we are to be convinced it is in our best interests.

          4. Please also see my nested reply here.

            I should have lead with this. If this were in the United States, how do we protect the 14th Amendment by permitting “reasonable” search and seizure?

        2. Yes…tedious because you can’t deal with facts, context, political ambivalence or history…which is no surprise in your case.
          Also pot. kettle. black. Are we to presume you support Australia and disagree with Apple, since you demand an answer but don’t satisfy the question yourself? Based on your long record of blanket Apple bashing, this might well be the case. Shame on you.
          Try to answer this question. What is it like living on planet GoeB? It seems to be a reactionary, contradictory, querulous and totally irony_free_desert™️ where brains and mouth are separated at birth.

            1. What are you…a parrot? It’s unoriginal at the very least. Try an intelligent reply that doesn’t rely on simplistic copying when you have nothing else to say.
              You answer to no questions…just ad hominems, evasion and childishness beyond absurdity with an arrogant dismissal of accountability and self awareness since your hoof is so far down your gullet you could kick your own butt.

      2. “If they get away with it, most other governments will follow.”

        They will be able to “get away with it” only insofar as reality allows. All they will have done is make it easier for the bad guys to access what the “good guys” are seeking to control.

        Expect the eventual collapse of these civilized (if you can call them that) governments that advocate for back doors.

      3. Thank you for taking the time to write such a cogent assessment of the handling of scientific fast and evidence in the current state of political tribalism.

        Gut feeling does not refute or change facts. We, as a society and as individuals, can choose to ignore facts or refuse to act intelligently in response to facts. But the facts do not change as a result, and the consequences will occur regardless of public opinion or the gut feel of influential public figures.

        1. “The “left” certainly has problems with criminals and criminal activity.”

          NO, they do not!

          Where are all the sanctuary cities? Blue cities controlled by Democrats. They are against the death penalty. They favor illegal immigration as a voter registration drive for those that kill Americans and are released, time and time again.

          The Democrats are now the party of CRIMINALS. Don’t insult our intelligence…

          1. Then you look at, I think it’s North Dakota, that just disenfranchised 70,000 American Indians because they live in a reservation an have a PO Box as an address.

            If the Democrats tend to want “illegal immigrants” to vote (illegal immigrants don’t vote), then the Republicans are disenfranchisers of legal citizens. That and for Federal Elections, unifirm federal rukes should apply. The House and Senate are federal seats.

            1. Surely you know every election dead people vote, illegals vote, felons vote and some vote more than once. The Democrats and the liberal media have no problem with it and ignore the stories for the most part. What they have a big problem with is Voter ID laws that will take away their dishonest advantage. Illegal immigration is a voter registration drive, particularly in California. Personally, I have witnessed WAM (walking around money) to bus people to the polls from soup kitchens. Also witnessed at the polls greeters passing out slick colorful flyers in Spanish instructing all Latinos to pull the ALL Democrat lever. I’m not making this stuff up…

            2. If your going to talk about walking around money, you cannot ignore Citizens United.

              And even if you put all fake votes together, how prevalent is that and how does it excuse disenfranchising?

            3. “And even if you put all fake votes together, how prevalent is that and how does it excuse disenfranchising?”

              Like I said, illegal voting favors Democrats. For that reason, universities and the media don’t touch it with any amount of fair analysis or study because it goes against their team. Surely you know that.

              “”Disenfranchising” is a total hoax and invention of the Democrats to cry racism and bash Republicans in the media.

              Where exactly are the “disenfranchising” voters? You need ID to apply for welfare, to open a checking account, to collect Social Security, to drive a car, to travel on an airplane, to obtain a passport and that is the tip of the iceberg.

              The voter ID laws proposed would provide for a free ID without a driver’s license. So, who are ALL these disenfranchised voters who cannot apply for an free ID? They can make to the polls without one?!?!?!

              Absolutely ridiculous!…

            4. Certainly, the situation on the N.D. reservation should be corrected. First I am hearing it so I take you at your word.

              That said, this entire “disenfranchised” of Democrat ONLY voters is pure BS! 🐂💩

              Like I said, these voters make it to the polls year after year to vote.

              But they can’t make it one time in their lives to obtain a free Voter ID?!?!?! Hello?

              Absolutely ridiculous!…

            5. See, I know you’re a fair honest guy. The reservation can get registered due to having a PO Box as a street address.

              BTW I totally favor a National ID card. It’s ridiculous we don’t have one.

            6. See, I know you’re a fair honest guy. The reservation can’t get registered due to having a PO Box as a street address.

              BTW I totally favor a National ID card. It’s ridiculous we don’t have one.

      4. Thank you for your excellent post, I enjoyed reading it, agreeing and disagreeing with some of the ideas that unfortunately due to a busy weekend I do not have time to address properly.

        I will however point out that when for people who enjoy power and control getting people to disregard facts is a demonstration of the power they can yield, and while this is not my cup of tea I am aware of it.

  3. Never ceases to amaze me how stupid supposedly smart people can be. Fact 1, Bad guys will always obtain access to backdoors no matter what you do. Fact 2. If back doors are granted the bad guys will just use other means to hide their deeds. Saying that government has the power to keep secrets is laughable at best.

    1. How will the government stop their own employees from either deliberately or accidentally revealing the back door combo?

      The value of that combo would be immense … as in an incredible retirement account value.

      But then the government would have to break up the key in 3 or more parts and distribute it in disparate locations, where no individual held the full “key.”

      So, the hackers would then try to intercept transmissions whenever a backdoor key segment was transmitted to the official “Gov’t Ordered Obfuscation Facility” (GOOF).

      Since 1000s of requests would be made each month, there will be lots of key requests and its only a matter of time until the key gets hacked. And then? Answer is “Well, we tried.”

      1. Then comes the complication of having 10,000+ devices sold in 180 countries where each device for each country wants to have its “own” backdoor code.

        The maintenance of all these backdoors and the tracking of everything would be a huge infrastructure.

  4. In wartime, governments have controlled cryptology. This is well-known in the cases of the Japanese Purple Code and the German Enigma, both of which were solved by Allied crypanalysts at Bletchley Park and at Arlington Hall, and were decisive in winning World War 2. Governments always had a need for secrecy; spies appear throughout history, even in the Old Testament.

    In peacetime, governments had a rightful purpose in deciphering messages sent by political subversives or smugglers, who conspired across state lines to violate standing laws.

    It seems to me that this fad of requiring back-door access to encrypted smartphone messages is decidely different. It assumes that all encrypted data is potential evidence in a criminal trial. However, this point is hotly disputed, because smartphone data most resembles what were called “personal papers” two hundred years ago, and were protected from arbitrary seizure, and also resembles personal knowledge, residing in the heads of citizens but protected by right of self-incrimination. The laws predating the expansion of information fail to discriminate amongst its varieties, more numerous and complex than they were when the laws were written down with a reasonable intent of fairness. We need new laws. Until we get them, trying to make law enforcement’s jobs easier is simply the gloss that crass politicians put on clawing back basic rights that ordinary people waited centuries to obtain.

    1. Well written. More simply (and feebly) put, If a person has the right of refusing to incriminate himself or herself, how does the government have the right to force them to incriminate themselves because of what they have documented with encryption? Encryption is a way of documenting our thoughts with the expectation of privacy/security.

      If the government can force us to do that, then why can’t they just beat it out of us? If one has a perfect memory, such that no documentation is required, does it now mean that the government has a right to it?

      1. You both raise really good points. This is not a trivial issue.
        Unlike what is in your head, which is entirely yours, your phone does depend on social regulated infrastructure.

        But that aside…
        With a warrant, they can break your door. For stuff not stored in your head.

        1. The Fourth Amendment has always allowed peace officers with a lawful warrant to break into your home and read your diary. There is nothing in an iPhone that could not have been found in many eighteenth-century journals, some of which used obscure foreign languages, codes, or invisible inks to protect their privacy. The fact that iPhone data is electronically encrypted does not raise its level of constitutional protection.

          1. I was careful to specify “arbitrary seizure.” Warrants are still alright. Also, since there does exist a dispute over the legal description of data, it would be wise for congress to clarify these points through amendments, in order to avoid local and state lawmen (and even the FBI) making their own interpretations. We can’t be having law enforcement interpreting the law, counsellor: that’s the putative duty of the courts.

    1. Glad the pastor is home. I’ll give The President whatever credit he is owed.

      However, it might not have happened except that Turkey wants American support concerning the Saudi affront to its sovereignty. We’ll see how that goes, as well as whether there was some quid pro quo concerning the Gulen supporters living in US asylum.

        1. He’s doing it. Adding a “however” doesn’t diminish that; it only emphasises the complexity of international relations. Assigning political credit is a simple zero-sum game — but serious conversation about our future goes beyond that. Give Trump all the credit for what goes right, but think about the roles of all the other strong men flexing their muscles. Who’s playing whom? One way to approach politics today is to pick a winner in advance and bet the country store on him. Another is to analyse the world stage as a lottery, with the odds of winning changing every day. Myself, I’ve always kept a secret bank account, just like all the smart rich people do just in case the whole thing falls apart. One rule: never keep all your eggs in one basket. That applies to money but also political affiliations; check the history of the twentieth century if you doubt me. Yes, Trump is attractive because he stands up to repressive elements in society. He has done democracy a service in that regard. But there is no way he can save us from ourselves. Whatever is wrong in our republic is because we ourselves failed to take care of business. I could say more, but I may have already said too much.

      1. Since we are on the topic of giving credit, time to give Senator Warren credit for Native American ancestry as reflected in her DNA. That also fits in the broader topic of government overreach, since a Prime Minister who attacks his people’s privacy is a good fit for a Chief Executive who attacks the ethnicity of his people. If he can call her “Pocahontas,” why can’t we call him “The Kraut?” Answer: Basic respect for human decency.

        1. Trump is shallow. He doesn’t realise that Pocahontas was an admirable character in history, not a dopey indian squaw. But maybe he isn’t shallow, after all — he sees and understands what goes over well with his audience, what plays well with his core political voters. Any stand-up comedian is similarly motivated; they privately hate themselves for their lewd jokes but need to stay popular in order to earn a living. I view Trump in a similar light — a man trying to make a living. To him, ideas must be like jokes to comedians — if they work up applause they are good, otherwise not. In this way, men who could become great become reduced, by their followers and their handlers, to sock puppets. Trump still may escape from this threatening inversion of power because he possesses one remaining idiosyncracy, his inclination to turn on a dime and change his mind. Keeping everyone off-balance is itself a sign of native ingenuity, a Mohammed Ali-like combat skill, an unpredictability of behaviour that baffles the pundits and can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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