Apple, the Feds and San Bernadino Update

NPR has published Apple's Feb. 17, 2016 response to a federal magistrate judge in New York who requested information the day before on instances in which the Feds are seeking assistance unlocking encrypted data on iPhones. You can view it here. The case is In re Order Requiring Apple Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by the Court, No. 15-MC-1902, Eastern District of New York. The Magistrate Judge is Jamie Orenstein, who has long been concerned about the privacy intrusions inherent in government requests for cell phone data. Here's an example from last October. [More...]

Also see the 2005 order he wrote rejecting the Government's ex parte request for real time cell data.

Attached to Apple's response are the search warrant and affidavit from the San Bernadino case, in which the Government seeks to have Apple install software on Syed Farouk's phone to disable the auto-erase feature that automatically kicks in after 10 failed attempts to enter the passcode.

The phone was Farouk's work phone, owned by San Bernadino County, his employer. They have consented to the search of the phone. The phone was in a Lexus IS300 with a handicapped placard.

According to Apple, the feds have made similar applications for 13 devices in 9 other cases around the country since making the request in the New York case.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I guess the feds don't feel they need to wait (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Peter G on Wed Feb 24, 2016 at 09:15:24 PM EST
    to set the precedent they clearly want (by choosing a "worst facts case" to set it in) before trying to expand that precedent to a dozen other cases.

    Cook: "In a perfect world..." (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Feb 25, 2016 at 08:10:20 AM EST
    When asked about FBI Director James Comey's public statements regarding a one-device workaround, Cook elaborated on the slippery slope argument. If Apple were compelled to build the software requested, it might later be forced to create other intrusive tools like an operating system for surveillance, or code that turns on an iPhone's camera without a user's knowledge, Cook said. These dangers, while intangible at this point, pose a very real threat to the public at large.

    "In a perfect world where none of the implications that I'm talking about exist, yes, we would do it -- we would obviously do it," Cook said. "But we don't live in a perfect world."

    "The precedent isn't: they unlock one phone (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Feb 25, 2016 at 08:50:34 AM EST
    - says Jake Williams, CEO of Rendition Infosec. "There's no reason down the road they can't go to Microsoft, or anyone else, for that matter, to create some intentionally vulnerable applications." In the scenario Williams envisions, the FBI could force Microsoft to send out a malicious Windows update to any machine connected to a specific IP address, like the Wi-Fi at a coffee shop.

    I Am Positive They... (none / 0) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 25, 2016 at 12:34:41 PM EST
    ... already do this, but I thought it was virus sent to specific emails.

    Found it.

    The FBI is using its own hacking programs for installing malware and spyware on the computers of suspected terrorists or child pornographers, a tactic that is drawing attention in the wake of disclosures about the domestic online surveillance of Americans.

    Among the programs is one known by various names, including the Remote Operations Unit and Remote Assistance Team, which uses private contractors to do the actual hacking of suspects. The contractors can send a virus, worm or other malware to a suspect's computer, giving law enforcement control of a wide range of activities, from turning a computer's webcam on and off to searching for documents on the machine, says Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

    "In the last few years the FBI has created a team that has solely focused on delivering what we call malware -- viruses and worms -- to people's computers to get control of them," he told NBC News.  


    Yes, the difference is they are not forcing (none / 0) (#5)
    by ruffian on Fri Feb 26, 2016 at 01:56:03 PM EST
    private companies to do it against their will. They have hired willing contractors.