Apple preps for legal fight with DOJ over encryption

Apple is preparing for a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department and the Trump administration as the company publicly attempts to defuse the dispute, The New York Times reports today. Apple CEO Tim Cook has assembled a group of top advisers on the issue as U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr has publicly slammed the company for not helping to penetrate two phones used by an Islamic terrorist in a deadly shooting last month at a Pensacola naval air station.

Jack Nicas and Katie Benner for The New York Times:

iPhone passcode lock screen
iPhone passcode lock screen
Executives at Apple have been surprised by the case’s quick escalation, said people familiar with the company who were not authorized to speak publicly. And there is frustration and skepticism among some on the Apple team working on the issue that the Justice Department hasn’t spent enough time trying to get into the iPhones with third-party tools, said one person with knowledge of the matter…

The stakes are high for Mr. Cook, who has built an unusual alliance with President Trump that has helped Apple largely avoid damaging tariffs in the trade war with China. That relationship will now be tested as Mr. Cook confronts Mr. Barr, one of the president’s closest allies…

Apple has said it chooses not to build a “backdoor” way for governments to get into iPhones and to bypass encryption because that would create a slippery slope that could damage people’s privacy…

Bruce Sewell, Apple’s former general counsel who helped lead the company’s response in the San Bernardino case, said in an interview last year that Mr. Cook had staked his reputation on the stance. Had Apple’s board not agreed with the position, Mr. Cook was prepared to resign, Mr. Sewell said…

Mr. Cook has made privacy one of Apple’s core values. That has set Apple apart from tech giants like Facebook and Google, which have faced scrutiny for vacuuming up people’s data to sell ads.

MacDailyNews Take: The U.S. government is feigning ignorance on this issue in what seems to be an attempt to sway public sentiment against Apple and/or to set up a legal battle to somehow force Apple to create a backdoor that will jeopardize the security and privacy of every iPhone user. Why do we say that the U.S. government is feigning ignorance? Because there are ways to get into older iPhones via third-party forensics companies that the U.S. government has utilized in the past.

“Security researchers and a former senior Apple executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said tools from at least two companies, Cellebrite and Grayshift, have long been able to bypass the encryption on those iPhone models,” Nicas and Benner report in their full article.

Would The U.S. Supreme Court — because that’s where this is going to end up if the DOJ keeps ratcheting this up — be able to force a company to break their product, making it less desirable at home and abroad? Any criminal can get encryption for communicating amongst themselves on their own — they’ll be secure and all of the rest of us will not.

Wise Americans know and understand the meaning of the following quote:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

This is not about this phone. This is about the future. And so I do see it as a precedent that should not be done in this country or in any country. This is about civil liberties and is about people’s abilities to protect themselves. If we take encryption away… the only people that would be affected are the good people, not the bad people. Apple doesn’t own encryption. Encryption is readily available in every country in the world, as a matter of fact, the U.S. government sponsors and funds encryption in many cases. And so, if we limit it in some way, the people that we’ll hurt are the good people, not the bad people; they will find it anyway. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, February 2016


    1. All this goes to show just how much Apple is the IT department, if they weren’t they could not face this pressure. But hey, “it’s the whole ecosystem”.

      All other searches of your home and person, other than through your own testimony, are fair game with a warrant. The iPhone is not special.

      As far as the “bad guys” argument, why aren’t you advocating shitting down Cellebrite?

        1. No, there isn’t a way. What part of “We can’t do it without creating a back door that anyone could exploit,” do you totalitarian goons not understand? You may think that DJT is God, but he really can’t repeal the laws of physics. The inherent difficulty of encryption algorithms is a fact, not opinion or fake news, all tweets to the contrary notwithstanding.

          1. Totalitarian? Hardly.
            No one is advocating unreasonable searches and seizures. If they can cavity search, and that’s acceptable, then they should be able to search a phone. I suppose you oppose tapping phones with a warrant as well.

            1. Even the brightest and wealthiest company on planet Earth cannot develop a perpetual motion machine or a faster than light drive. Some things, like a “secure back door” are simply not possible.

            2. USER: “Some things, like a “secure back door” are simply not possible.”

              Says who, a FAKE Republican who never worked in tech? At the very least, I was a BETA tester for many years for two international companies that are household names.

              So, a “secure back door” is not possible? How do you know? I WONDER if the computer programs running nuclear missile silos, the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, the White House, Wall Street, Banking, et al. — do not have secure backwoods to get in if hacked? I don’t know, but I suspect they have multiple levels of backdoors.

              My point is if anyone could do it successfully, should be a walk in the spaceship park for the greatest tech company of all time. They own the secure keys and could change the codes daily, hourly, randomly, etc. Every time I open my garage door a new code is generated so it cannot be hacked. So, obviously a key exists.

              I suspect this is a marketing ploy to promise security only to sell more phones, nothing more…

            3. Yes, a key exists. It is the password you generate for yourself and enter into your device. Apple does not know that key and cannot use it. It can guess it, of course, given enough attempts, but no more easily than the FBI could with its own resources.

              Apple insists that there is no second secret key that only it possesses. There is no evidence of which I am aware that they are lying. The best evidence that such a key does not exist is that it has not leaked. The inevitability of such a leak is why “secure back door” is an oxymoron.

  1. As someone whose grandparents and mother were deported to Gulag for a reason of being citizens of USSR occupied country I do not support any politicians playing with ideas of having total control.

    You may say I am overreacting. I give you an example. When I was a kid in the early 80s, our headmaster ms. Eva Paal sneaked into a church during the christmas eve and wrote down the names of kids she recognized. So she could bully them in front of the class next day. Now imagine if such person would have hesistated to search through someones phone to find some politically incorrect apps or conversations if such access was granted?

    While in US you will probably not have a totatlitarian regime in power anytime soon if ever, by dilluting a security and privacy of devices the whole world uses you are just helping monsters all over the world to demand the same powers you are so arrogantly granting for yourselves.

    Or whatever. Make Apple a new FBI or something, give it a superior judge and procecutor rights too so it can step in and help effectively and fast anytime its needed.

    1. I agree with your outrage and sympathize with your fear. This is why we have separation of Church and State and Freedom of Speech. Authoritarianism is only combated by freedom, not with counter authoritarianism.

      I sure a hell don’t want corporations defining what’s legal, if I won’t tolerate the same from my government.

  2. I never imagined Barr would be this good, KingMe.

    Guess you liked the last two clown AG’s under President Obama. One delivering arms to Mexican drug cartels, in contempt of Congress who resigned. And the other featherweight who met privately with Bill Clinton on the LA airport tarmac talking about grandchildren during his wife’s presidential campaign and e-mail scandal with an illegal unauthorized e-mail server. Yeah, right.

    Reckoning is coming, wait for it…

  3. It’s easy to understand, detailed and meticulous! I had a lot of posts. After seeing this article from you! I find it interesting, your article gave me a new perspective! I have many other posts on the same topic, but your article convinced me!

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.