FBI Stories May 19

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

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

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

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

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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