Have you seen this?

You guys know I am to current computer stuff what Little Bear is to Medieval Finnish Literature, right? And I’m pretty used to thinking of Apple as this evil empire seriously in need of somebody willing to shove a proton torpedo up its thermal exhaust port or something.

But then I heard a stub on NPR while in the Jeep today. Looked it up and found this…

A Message to Our Customers

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. 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.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

It goes on at some length and is signed by Tim Cook, who appears to be the CEO of Apple.

I’m confused. I always thought all those gadgets already had back doors, and that a guy like this would be too busy fellating a Man In Black to ever have time – or any reason – to publicly defy him.

So somebody tell me: Am I losing my mind, or falling for a scam, or is the crypto on iGadgets actually real and Apple just raised a middle finger to the FBI?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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11 Responses to Have you seen this?

  1. Buck. says:

    Well, being he(Tim Cook) is gay, he may have fellated a few men in black at some time or another; but that’s beside the point.
    I don’t get it either. I’m not ready to believe the NSA can’t get into these things. I’m sure they can. And what software company doesn’t hang backdoors in? I smell me some fish.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As I understand it, the Apple IPhones have a feature that is supposed to reduce theft from the rightful owner. If the phone security code is incorrectly entered more than 10 times, then it automatically shuts down and destroys the data on it. There are a huge amount of combinations and it would be very unlikely the FBI can get it before self destructing.

    I’m sure the government has already worked (or is currently working on) their own back doors into smart phones. Too much a target rich environment. People will guard their privacy via conversation, but phone / Facebook pages have far more information then their owners credit them. Many employers already use Facebook to check out prospective employees for skeletons in the closet.

  3. abnormalist says:

    Honestly for both Apple and Google, it makes real sense to write it in there for reals… It gets them deniability (“Nope Mr. Govm’nt we cant unlock that phone for you”). It avoids the public outcry (“HEY VENDOR XXX HAS A BACKDOOR BUILT IN! BUT VENDOR YYY DOESNT!”), and since geeks are the early adopters, and geeks care about privacy (at least their porn) then the geeks set the trends of whats going to be next.

    Its also very easy to shred the encryption keys from a technical standpoint. They dont delete the data on the phone, they just overwrite the encryption key leaving the rest of the stuff useless gobbledygook.

    Whats really important here is that they are asking for this, with no probable cause. They are just stating that “they think there might be relevant information on the device”. Anyone these people texted, they should have the number, and the content. Any calls made, they have the meta data already. Internet posts etc, already can be covered. It seems what they really want is the GPS data, but they arent providing anything that says its imperative for their investigation, or even relevant.

    Whats impressive to me, is that the FBI is asking for it at all. Technically, they could pull a forensic level image off the flash chip, and re-image as needed, but I think that would take them more time then they care to expend here… So really its a case of laziness that they are picking this fight.

  4. joe splieg says:

    Silly FBI rabbits!

    All they needed to do to make this happen with Apple is say it was Lavoy Finicum’s phone– then it would have been ok.

  5. Ben says:

    I agree with Apple’s stand, but don’t attach any particular nobility to it. They are very publicly doing what they calculate will play well with their customer base, and that’s good for Apple.

  6. Landlady says:

    As far as I can tell — from people much smarter than me — this is legit. Apple’s encryption on the iPhone is designed in such a way that you can’t use brute force to crack it. Feds honestly need them to design the back door because they cannot get in otherwise. (Keep in mind this applies only to the data on the phone itself — if data was backed up to iCloud, Feds and/or Apple can grab it from there).

    Further, Apple — again, as far as I can tell from people smarter than me — doesn’t need to cozy up to the feds like most corporations. They are successful on the basis of their products, not due to lobbying or subsidies or special favors from the government. So they don’t have to worry about having any gov’t carrots taken away as a result of their defiance. The only thing the feds can hold over them is a stick, which is awkward when the company is so popular and so financially successful.

    Finally, Apple makes their money from selling hardware, not data (unlike Google). Their user base tends to be people who really, really, really like their privacy. In short, there’s absolutely no upside for Apple in betraying that trust… they’ll lose their credibility with the security nerds, and there’s nothing the feds can give them that can make up for that loss. Building a back door is a total losing scenario for them.

  7. Mark Matis says:

    Apple already gave the FBI similar info at least 70 times:

    The FedPigs have a backdoor into every smartphone using techology from a US company. Any company that dared defy them would have already been Gibsoned. The FBI has even OPENLY campaigned for a law that would require ANY device or software sold in this country to provide them a backdoor.

    Unfortunately for US tech companies, SOME people, in this country as well as elsewhere in the world, understand how corrupt they truly are, and are refusing to buy their products. This is nothing more than an attempt by Apple and the FedPigs to help US tech regain the faith of customers so the FedPigs can pursue their treason unopposed.

  8. Dean says:

    Yeah I’m with Apple on this one, here’s why. The Gov. forces Apple to create a backdoor to hack I-phones, you know for national security. The FBI, DEA, ATF, EPA, BLM, BIA and all the other alphabet agencies can now get into any terrorists or other nefarious characters, like ranchers, phones. Everything is peachy but then the Sec. of State says hey the bad guys have iPhones overseas too send me that hack. But unbeknownst to the Feds the Sec. of State has a private email server, cause they don’t want their political enemies knowing what their up to. The server isn’t secure and now the whole world has the hack.
    I don’t know, it could happen.

  9. s says:

    It is legit. Apple has genuine strong encryption in the newer model iPhones. The BS about Apple giving iPhone data 70 times in the past was from the days when the OS did not use strong encryption. Now it does. Apple really cannot read the contents of your iPhone if you don’t use their Cloud service to back it up. If you do use iCloud, and the FBI presents Apple with a warrant, they will turn over the data. They have to.

    There are certainly economic motivations for Apple to take this stance. Unlike most of the social media companies, where consumers are the product, and the money comes from collecting their data and selling it, Apple sells actual products to real people and charges top dollar for them.

    That means that Apple lives or dies by pleasing their customers. And those customers have made it very clear they want control of their data. They may surrender a lot of it voluntarily to Facebook or Twitter or other social media, but that is their choice. They don’t like the NSA tapping their phones, recording the web browsing.

    iPhones are intensely personal because of both the amount and breadth of information they store. What you read, what you write, whom you talk to on the telephone, where you are, how many steps you take, what you buy, what you eat, how often you exercise. If you wear your iPhone watch to bed it can tell how well you sleep and when you have sex.

    If Apple rolls over, there will be other firms that spring up to offer consumers the control over their personal information they desire. If Apple gives up, consumers will be more likely to go somewhere else.

    If Apple fights hard, consumers are more likely to accept defeat. If they put up a good fight, it isn’t their fault if they lose. We know the game is rigged.

    So while Apple’s motivations may be economic, they are genuine, and I argue that they will fight this will all the considerable resources at their disposal.

    Many in the liberty movement reflexively despise corporations. In this case a very large corporation is taking a stance consistent with privacy and liberty. The list of powerful, wealthy allies of the liberty movement is rather short. It might be prudent to welcome Apple’s efforts rather than impugning their motivations.

  10. CMac says:

    Apple does need to make a special “cracked” version of their OS to allow the FBI to guess the passcode of the phone without the phone erasing all of it’s info. As someone who has written simple OS’s and worked on more complicated OS’s (FreeBsd) similar to Apple’s, it would take one Apple engineer about a day to make the “cracked” OS version and put it on the phone for the FBI to use the brute force approach of entering all 10000 possible passcodes to see which one works. The “cracked” OS itself never has to leave Apple’s control or be given to the FBI to use on any phone in the future, and could easily be removed from the phone before control of it is given back to the FBI.
    I think Apple is fighting this warrant more as a marketing scheme than anything else, and is just trying to show to customers that it is very difficult for iPhones to be hacked. Of course the real worry for it’s customers is that some Apple engineer creates the “cracked” OS version on his own (or an even more effective one that would allow the phone to be hacked through the on-air interface) and sells it to some criminals for enough to retire on.

To the stake with the heretic!