FBI successfully unlocks iPhone 11 Pro, so why is it demanding Apple unlock older iPhones?

Forbes has uncovered a search warrant that strongly indicates the feds have access to a tool that can grab data on the latest, and most secure, iPhones. Naturally, this lead to questions about the FBI’s motivations over demanding Apple help it unlock the iPhones of the Islamic terrorist suspect in the recent Pensacola, Florida attack.

Thomas Brewster for Forbes:

iPhone passcode lock screen
iPhone passcode lock screen
Last year, FBI investigators in Ohio used a hacking device called a GrayKey to draw data from the latest Apple model, the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The phone belonged to Baris Ali Koch, who was accused of helping his convicted brother flee the country by providing him with his own ID documents and lying to the police. He has now entered a plea agreement and is awaiting sentencing.

Forbes confirmed with Koch’s lawyer, Ameer Mabjish, that the device was locked. Mabjish also said he was unaware of any way the investigators could’ve acquired the passcode; Koch had not given it to them nor did they force the defendant to use his face to unlock the phone via Face ID, as far as the lawyer was aware. The search warrant document obtained by Forbes, dated October 16 2019, also showed the phone in a locked state, giving the strongest indication yet that the FBI has access to a device that can acquire data from the latest iPhone.

Senator Wyden’s office told Forbes it has asked the Department of Justice to explain why it is making public demands for backdoors if it has already used the tool to access the newest iPhones… It isn’t just the FBI’s motivations that are being called into question — both President Trump and Attorney General William Barr have also urged the tech giant to assist.

MacDailyNews Take: Perhaps the FBI et al. are demanding Apple “do something” simply for political gain, to bolster a narrative of strength, i.e. “we care, we’ll protect you, we’re strong on terrorists,” etcetera?

If this isn’t just political posturing, then the U.S. government obviously isn’t as interested in what’s on this latest terrorist’s iPhones as it is in trying to force Apple to provide a backdoor with a master key to unlock iPhones. If not playing politics, then the U.S. government is being duplicitous as it wants the ability to get into every iPhone for whatever reason, valid or otherwise. That’s their goal.

It’s obvious that the U.S. government’s full court press is now on from officials far and wide. We expect Apple to stand firm, weather the onslaught, and, ultimately, if need be, take this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

18 Comments

    1. and it would be reasonable for Apple to have it answered/clarified publicly, rather than to have the matter fall into the background with Apple still associated with the negative sentiment.

    2. Simple answer: cost.

      Long answer: There is a huge part of the electorate that is both paranoid and cheapskates. They demand that taxation be so low that it doesn’t support efficient government while simultaneously demanding that the USA increase its military and security largesse. “Support Our Troops!”, the Chinese-made bumper stickers say.

      Then they bitch about the lines at TSA checkpoints.

      So the obvious answer for the FBI is to do what these people expect them to do (to snoop everything everywhere as much as technologically possible) while passing off the costs onto somebody else. You could say that the FBI is acting like a Goeb or a Dd. And while these self-centered idiots defend Apple, if you changed the name of the mobile phone manufacturer to any other, then these dolts would fully support the unending expansion of executive and FBI powers for warrantless search. It makes them feel safe.

      1. This puts me in mind of a passage in The Third World War: August 1985 by Sir John Hackett. The 1978 book, by a key NATO planner, imagines the course of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. At one point, as I recall, the Soviets are being attacked by American mortars from behind a ridge. The Red Army artillery are ordered to return fire, but their guns cannot elevate enough to get over the ridge, so they fall back a couple of miles so that the rounds can hit the mortar positions. The Soviet forces seize the ridge and continue their advance, but the artillerymen are all shot for withdrawing in the face of the enemy. Hackett uses that to illustrate why a Soviet invasion would fail.

        This iPhone business is the same sort of thing. An irrational authority is ordering people to do what is simply a physical impossibility. Apple can no more crack these phones without creating a back door than the Soviet artillery could shoot through solid rock. Yet the “authority” claims to know more about the experts’ subject matter than the experts themselves. If the authority (the Party Chairman, Big Brother, whoever) says that it is possible, then it IS possible. If the so-called experts cannot do it, it is because they are unwilling, not because they are unable. They must be traitors.

        A recent article on Bill Barr mentions that he was arguing for a more powerful Executive Branch even while Watergate was going on. He has kept on message for over forty years since. When DJT became President, 18% of Republicans agreed with the statement “The Executive Branch would be more effective if Congress and the Courts were not in the way.” That number is now up to 42%. The Nixonian “Imperial Presidency” idea is back with a passion. If the President embodies the entire authority of the United States of America, perhaps he can suspend the laws of mathematics and physics. Bill Barr, Steve Bannon, and Steven Mnuchin seem to think so.

  1. When the previous president did it you used the words “Obama administration”, not “the US government” or “the FBI” like you do several times in your Take.

    Obama administration wants access to smartphones – December 15, 2015
    Obama administration’s calls for backdoors into encrypted communications echo Clinton-era key escrow fiasco – December 14, 2015
    Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
    Petition asks Obama administration to stop demanding Apple create iPhone backdoor – February 19, 2016
    Obama administration claims FBI is not asking Apple for a ‘backdoor’ to the iPhone – February 18, 2016
    Obama’s secret attempt to ban cellphone unlocking, while claiming to support it – November 19, 2013

    Say it like it is: The TRUMP ADMINISTRATION and the President Trump himself are demanding backdoor access to Apple devices. Own it.

      1. They never do.

        https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/here-we-go-again-the-apple-fbi-phone-unlock-showdown-returns/

        Trump claimed in a post to Twitter that Apple “refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW!”

        The Great Orange Liar apparently thinks that criminals don’t already use their own encrypted communications. It would be a stupid criminal to rely on Apple for professional grade anything. Apple doesn’t do that, and Apple would fold immediately if a warrant was served. Too bad this incompetent administration doesn’t understand what warrants (or subpoenas) are.

        My recommendation: if Apple was smart, it would provide the user a seamless encryption solution that makes the user responsible for holding the encryption keys. As long as Apple continues to hold the ability to unlock data, then they will always be a target for bad actors and overzealous governments … or in this case, an incompetent government administration.

  2. And perhaps they want to created the illusion that they cannot get into people’s phones, thus leaving people feeling safe in having their information there. By yelling that you cannot get into a device, you make it appear to people to be safe, when it actually is not. The other thought is that they do not like paying large money to these companies to get them into the devices and want a free and broader access from Apple and others. Security be damned. (Much like Bruce Schneier’s comments on 5G security.)

  3. Personal security/privacy and govt are unnatural bedfellows. The larger the govt, the greater the “need” for control. “We need access for the children…for your safety.”

  4. I’m surprised the FBI doesn’t use quantum computer technology to break encryption instead of asking for Apple’s help. What does the FBI do about breaking Android smartphone encryption? Apple is always getting blamed for doing something wrong. What’s the point of privacy if a company is going to give in and let some agency have a backdoor to invade that privacy. Why should a company go against its own policy? I’m sure the FBI already knows this and should just work around it with their own tools. The FBI is supposed to be a competent intelligence agency. If this has been a long-standing Apple policy, why is there suddenly all this criticism against Apple?

  5. I think Attorney General Barr needs a major distraction from the fact that his organization and the FBI are completely filled with attorneys and agents who are corrupt and routinely commit felonies in huge cases to achieve their ends. The DOJ and FBI are not actually the enforcement arm of a criminal syndicate. Nothing more. And a bi-partisan one at that.

  6. I fail to see the problem here, a mountain out of a mole hill
    If it’s face recognition stick the phone in his face
    If it finger print stick his thumb on the sensor
    one of them will unlock the phone

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