FBI Stories January 28

A special US version of Pegasus smartphone spyware was created by NSO, and purchased by the FBI, a new report reveals today. The Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service, and the US military also held discussions with the Israeli spyware company.

Israel had always insisted that NSO make Pegasus incapable of being used on phones registered to US numbers in order to avoid angering a powerful ally, but an exception was granted…

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FBI Stories May 28, 2021

Have I been Pwned goes open source, gets FBI data feed

If you want to be alerted to security breaches of user IDs and passwords, Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) is one of the most useful sites around – and it’s about to get even more so …

FBI Stories April 14, 2021

An exclusive new report today from the Washington Post claims to have the details about how the FBI was able to crack the iPhone 5C in the San Bernardino case, who the little-known security firm was that it used, and how Apple has ended up suing a company co-founded by one of the hackers that cracked the iPhone.

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FBI Stories May 19, 2020

The latest Apple/FBI war of words in the Pensacola case has once again highlighted the huge challenge Apple has in communicating the reality of the debate, in a world in which most people have no understanding of the core issue.

To a non-technical person, the debate appears to be a moral one. The FBI says that it needs access to data from terrorists and criminals, and Apple wants to prevent this. FBI, good; Apple, bad.

To anyone who understands the technology, the debate is very different …

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FBI Stories May 18, 2020

It looks like the most recent contention between the FBI and Apple over device encryption has come to an end as the agency has unlocked the two iPhones belonging to the Pensacola shooter with “no thanks to Apple.” Going further, AG William Barr has again called for the government to force Apple and others to create backdoors into their devices.

Update: We’ve got an official response from Apple on the matter that highlights all the ways it helped the FBI and that it’s precisely because it takes security and privacy so seriously that it doesn’t believe in creating a backdoor:

The terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida was a devastating and heinous act. Apple responded to the FBI’s first requests for information just hours after the attack on December 6, 2019 and continued to support law enforcement during their investigation. We provided every piece of information available to us, including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts, and we lent continuous and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York over the months since.

On this and many thousands of other cases, we continue to work around-the-clock with the FBI and other investigators who keep Americans safe and bring criminals to justice. As a proud American company, we consider supporting law enforcement’s important work our responsibility. The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security.

It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.

Customers count on Apple to keep their information secure and one of the ways in which we do so is by using strong encryption across our devices and servers. We sell the same iPhone everywhere, we don’t store customers’ passcodes and we don’t have the capacity to unlock passcode-protected devices. In data centers, we deploy strong hardware and software security protections to keep information safe and to ensure there are no backdoors into our systems. All of these practices apply equally to our operations in every country in the world.

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FBI Stories May 14, 2020

Senate votes to allow FBI to access your browsing history without a warrant

The US Senate yesterday voted – by a single vote – to allow government agencies like the FBI and CIA to access your browsing history without a warrant.

This means they would not need to show probable cause for believing you have committed a crime before requiring your ISP to hand over its records on your web browsing and search histories …

The FBI has obtained a copy of iCloud data belonging to Senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after serving Apple with a warrant compelling it to hand over the data. This likely includes an iCloud backup of Burr’s iPhone.

The FBI used the data in order to obtain a subsequent warrant to seize Burr’s iPhone as part of an investigation into whether the senator broke the law to profit from the coronavirus crisis …

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FBI Stories February 5, 2020

In early January, the FBI asked Apple to unlock two iPhones as part of the Pensacola case. Apple stood its ground and said it wouldn’t create a backdoor for iOS but would help as much as it could without crossing that line. Even though the FBI has the ability to unlock the iPhone 7 and iPhone 5 with the help of third-parties, today it said it still hasn’t been able to get to the data on the devices.

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FBI Stories January 22, 2020

Doubt has been cast on the story that Apple gave in to FBI pressure on iCloud backups, and abandoned plans to switch to end-to-end encryption for these.

In particular, it appears that the timing behind the claim may not be right…

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US President Donald Trump has again demanded that Apple compromise the security of iOS to unlock iPhones seized in criminal cases, saying that the company “holds the keys to many criminal minds.” His attack on Apple’s privacy measures were made in an interview with CNBC.

‘Frankly I’ve helped them a lot. I’ve given them waivers, because it’s a great company, but it made a big difference,’ Trump told Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen, referring to tariff waivers in US-China trade war.

‘They could have given us that information. It would have been very helpful. Apple has to help us. And I’m very strong on it. They have the keys to so many criminals and criminal minds’ …

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FBI Stories January 21, 2020

There’s always been one major problem with Apple’s privacy claim that ‘What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone‘: it isn’t true of iCloud backups.

Although Apple uses end-to-end encryption for both iMessage and FaceTime, it doesn’t do the same for iCloud backups. They are encrypted, but Apple holds the key, meaning that the company has access to a copy of almost everything on your phone – and that includes stored messages.

I’d long expected Apple to fix this, but a report today claims that the company has decided not to…

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FBI Stories January 17, 2020

Three different civil liberties groups are backing Apple in its refusal to create a weakened version of iOS to allow the FBI access to two iPhones used by the Pensacola shooter.

They support Apple’s position that compromising iPhone encryption would be a far greater risk to national security than not gaining access to the phones…

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FBI Stories January 15, 2020

As Apple stands firm against requests to break iPhone encryption, many people have questioned why the FBI needs Apple’s help in the first place. There are plenty of tools available from third-party companies that are more than capable of unlocking the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 used by the Pensacola gunman.

Further emphasizing that point, a new report from Forbes says that the FBI recently used one of those black/gray market tools to unlock the newest — and theoretically the most secure — iPhone that Apple sells.

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Update at end: Mnuchin joins the chorus.

Apple is reportedly preparing for a bizarre legal battle with the FBI over its demands for the Cupertino company to help it break into two iPhones used by the Pensacola Naval Air Station shooter.

The company was previously prepared to fight the FBI in court over the same demand with the San Bernardino iPhones before the agency backed down…

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FBI Stories January 14, 2020

There’s a lot of publicity right now about the FBI’s request for Apple to help them unlock two iPhones owned by a murder suspect who opened fire at a Florida navy base.

However, what has gone underreported is the fact that the two iPhones in question are actually old models, an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7.

As noted by the Wall Street Journal today, these devices are so old that their security has already been compromised. Plenty of security firms on the gray/black market are available to unlock older iPhone models, so why does the FBI need Apple?

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FBI Stories January 8, 2020

We reported yesterday that there’s a new FBI iPhone case — the bureau again asking Apple to unlock two iPhones belonging to a suspected shooter.

There are obvious similarities between the San Bernardino and Pensacola cases. Not just that both relate to shootings and involve two iPhones, but also the fact that the FBI has decided to go public with its request for Apple to help…

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FBI Stories January 7, 2020

The FBI is again asking Apple to unlock two iPhones belonging to a suspected shooter.

The last time this happened, in the San Bernardino case, Apple refused. The current case relates to last month’s shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, where three people were killed…

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FBI Stories October 24, 2019

Former FBI general counsel Jim Baker, who fought Apple on the San Bernardino iPhone case, says that he has now rethought some of his views on strong encryption.

Baker left the FBI last year to join a DC-based think tank, where his role is to write for the justice-focused blog, Lawfare

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FBI Stories February 28, 2019

The Cellebrite Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) is a smartphone hacking tool commonly used by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies in the US and elsewhere. It’s the most powerful tool yet created by the Israeli company, able to extract a huge amount of data – even data which has been deleted from phones.

A brand new one normally costs $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the model, but older models can be found on eBay for as little as $100 …

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FBI Stories February 27, 2019

A senior FBI official who testified to Congress during its battle with Apple over access to a locked iPhone has said that end-to-end encryption ‘infects’ law enforcement.

The remark was made as Apple and other tech companies warn of the danger of compromising strong encryption after the Australian government passed a law which would require them to help access encrypted messages on demand …

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FBI Stories February 4, 2019

We learned last week that a second Apple employee has been accused of stealing trade secrets from the company’s Project Titan research into self-driving car technology. The FBI was called in, and the criminal complaint now filed by the FBI reveal some of the steps Apple takes to protect product development secrets …

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FBI Stories October 26, 2018

In one of the stranger and belated twists to Apple’s battle with the FBI over the San Bernardino iPhone, Oracle founder Larry Ellison has criticized the company.

He told Fox that Apple’s refusal to create a weakened version of iOS dubbed GovOS was a ‘bizarre’ decision …

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FBI Stories May 11, 2018

A bipartisan bill being put before Congress would eliminate the possibility of any future battles between Apple and the government over backdoor access to iPhones. Apple famously fought the FBI when it demanded the firm create a compromised version of iOS to access a work iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The Secure Data Act would ‘prohibit Federal agencies from mandating the deployment of vulnerabilities in data security technologies’ …

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FBI Stories April 16, 2018

A Higher Loyalty, the memoir/exposé written by former FBI director James Comey, is now available for pre-order on iPhone and iPad, ahead of its official publication date tomorrow.

In the book –subtitled Truth, lies and leadership – Comey likens President Trump to a ‘mob boss’ who is ‘untethered to the truth’ and morally unfit to be president. But he also doesn’t hold back about Apple’s decision not to help the FBI in the San Bernardino shooting, describing it as ‘appalling’ …

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