Apple Denies Handing Over Source Code to China

During an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing earlier this week, entitled “Deciphering the Debate Over Encryption: Industry and Law Enforcement Perspectives,” which discussed the feud between Apple and the FBI over an iPhone tied to the San Bernardino shootings, Indiana State Police Captain Charles Cohen, Commander of the Office of Intelligence and Investigative Technologies, accused the Cupertino company of releasing its iOS source code and user data to China, while refusing to do the same thing for the US.

“I saw several news stories that said Apple provided the source code for the iOS [operating system for iPhone and iPads] to China,” Cohen said.

Following Cohen’s claims, for which he provided no evidence, Bruce Sewell, Apple’s General Counsel, confirmed that the company had “been asked by the Chinese government” for the source code, but that “we refused.”

Apple was also accused of possessing a key to access encrypted user messages and data – which would mean the company’s claims of end-to-end encryption were fraudulent – which it disposed of at the end of 2014.

“We have not provided source code to the Chinese government,” Sewell countered. “We did not have a key 19 months ago that we threw away. Those allegations are without merit.”

Image courtesy of Shelley Palmer.

San Bernardino iPhone Proves Useless Following Decryption

After a lengthy court battle, lasting months, that sought to compel Apple to compromise the security on an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook, the FBI finally achieved the feat on its own. The result? Absolutely nothing of use was gleaned from the device, according to an anonymous source within US law enforcement.

“A law enforcement source tells CBS News that so far nothing of real significance has been found on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, which was unlocked by the FBI last month without the help of Apple,” CBS News reports. “It was stressed that the FBI continues to analyze the information on the cellphone seized in the investigation.”

It is still unclear who was responsible for bypassing the encryption of Farook’s iPhone 5c, nor the mean by which it was achieved. Multiple sources, however, suggest that the FBI enlisted the help of a private group of “grey hat” hackers to help crack the device.

“The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter,” according to the Washington Post. “[…] The people who helped the U.S. government come from the sometimes shadowy world of hackers and security researchers who profit from finding flaws in companies’ software or systems.”

“The company that helped the FBI unlock a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone to get data has sole legal ownership of the method, making it highly unlikely the technique will be disclosed by the government to Apple or any other entity, Obama administration sources said this week,” Reuters revealed. “[…]The sources said the technology used to get into the phone was supplied by a non-U.S. company that they declined to identify.”

Regardless, FBI Director James Comey has suggested that the FBI will likely keep the exploit it used to access the iPhone to themselves, lest Apple attempt to patch the vulnerability. “If we tell Apple, they’re going to fix it and we’re back where we started,” Comey said. “As silly as it may sound, we may end up there. We just haven’t decided yet.”

US Congress Bill Plans to Make Effective Encryption Illegal

In the wake of the FBI’s feud with Apple over bypassing the encryption of San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, the US Congress is proposing a new bill that aims to outlaw effective encryption, what is termed “technical assistance”, requiring any company or entity to build in backdoors to its security systems for law enforcement to exploit.

In a draft of the proposed bill, written by a committee led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and leaked by politics news outlet The Hill, businesses are required to release “information or data” if served with a court order – meaning that they are legally obligated to have access to that data in the first place – or provide law enforcement agencies with “technical assistance as is necessary to obtain such information in an intelligible format or to achieve the purpose of the court order.”

While talk suggests that the leaked draft of the bill is close to its final iteration, its final draft could still change, especially since it does not have the support of President Obama. It is not yet known if this version of the bill has been submitted to Congress.

“While the bill claims that it in no way is designed to force companies to redesign their products, this is a subtle hypocrisy,” Jonathan Zdziarski , a computer forensics and encryption expert, wrote in a blog post. “The reality is that there is no possible way to comply with it without intentionally backdooring the encryption in every product that may be used in the United States.”

“This bill would not only be surrendering America’s cybersecurity but also its tech economy, as foreign competitors would continue to offer—and bad guys would still be able to easily use!–more secure products and services,” Kevin Bankston, Director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, told Vice Motherboard. “The fact that this lose-lose proposal is coming from the leaders of our Senate’s intelligence committee, when former heads of the NSA, DHS, the CIA and more are all saying that we are more secure with strong encryption than without it, would be embarrassing if it weren’t so frightening.”

WhatsApp Turns on Encryption for All Platforms

In a move that is sure to rile the FBI, following the law enforcement agency’s feud with Apple over its refusal to unlock the iPhone of a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, instant messaging app WhatsApp has added end-to-end encryption to every iteration of its software on every platform, providing added security to an additional one billion users.

“Building secure products actually makes for a safer world, (though) many people in law enforcement may not agree with that,” WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton told WIRED.

“We’re somewhat lucky here in the United States, where we hope that the checks and balances hold out for many years to come and decades to come. But in a lot of countries you don’t have these checks and balances,” added Jan Koum, the second co-founder of the company. “The argument can be made: Maybe you want to trust the government, but you shouldn’t because you don’t know where things are going to go in the future.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive of WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook, was a vocal supporter of Apple during its court struggle against the FBI. “We’re sympathetic with Apple,” Zuckerberg said during a technology conference in February. “I don’t think requiring back doors into encryption is either going to be an effective way to increase security or is really the right thing to do.”

Apple’s Tim Cook Describes FBI Fight as a “Bad Dream”

Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken candidly to TIME about his on-going battle against the FBI – with the US law enforcement agency putting him and his company under immense pressure to bypass the iPhone encryption of San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook – comparing the ordeal to a “bad dream”. Cook also expressed his dismay that the US government should be the one to stand up for the civil liberties of US citizens, not him.

“I never expected to be in this position,” Cook confessed in the interview with TIME magazine. “The government should always be the one defending civil liberties. And there’s a role reversal here. I mean I still feel like I’m in another world a bit, that I’m in this bad dream in some wise.”

“But at the end of the day, we’re going to fight the good fight not only for our customers but for the country,” he said. “We’re in this bizarre position where we’re defending the civil liberties of the country against the government. Who would have ever thought this would happen?”

Cook took the opportunity to stress that, despite reluctance – “Fighting the government is not a thing we choose to do,” he laments – his fight against the FBI’s efforts to bypass Apple’s encryption will continue, because, “at the end of the day—and none of us would have been able to sleep at night” if Apple caved.

Image courtesy of Mashable.

John McAfee Lied About Hacking San Bernardino iPhone

Serial fantasist John McAfee – who claimed last week that he could stage an Ocean’s Eleven-esque infiltration of the Pentagon – has admitted to lying about his ability to hack the encryption of an iPhone.

McAfee, speaking to Russia Today, CNN, and Business Insider last month, publicly offered his services to the FBI to hack the iPhone of San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook so that Apple –  which had refused an FBI court order to unlock the device – would not have its encryption compromised.

However, in a phone interview with The Daily Dot, McAfee has now admitted that he lied about his method of decrypting an iPhone – conceding that it would not work – in order to get, in his words, “get a s***load of public attention.” He does claim, however, that he has another, secret way of hacking an iPhone, but he’s not telling you, and he’ll take his ball home if you try to make him.

“By doing so, I knew that I would get a s***load of public attention, which I did,” McAfee revealed to The Daily Dot. “That video, on my YouTube account, it has 700,000 views. My point is to bring to the American public the problem that the FBI is trying to [fool] the American public. How am I going to do that, by just going off and saying it? No one is going to listen to that crap.”

“So I come up with something sensational,” he added. “Now, what I did not lie about was my ability to crack the iPhone. I can do it. It’s a piece of friggin’ cake. You could probably do it.”

When asked why he was even discussing the existence of his mysterious decryption wizardry, McAfee responded, “Because I’m assuming, because you kept on asking, that you aren’t going to publish it.” The Daily Dot explained that no such agreement had been made. McAfee subsequently hung up.

“The lie was an exaggeration of simplicity,” McAfee said in a text message after the interview. “As the Inverse article explained, it would have been impossible in the time allowed to explain the fullness of the truth. If you fault me for that, then you, and possibly your readers, will have been the only one on the planet to have done so.”

McAfee also said, “I apologize for my anger.” He added that it “seemed absurd to me to focus on a simplification of a technique, given the stakes at risk—a potentially Orwellian state initiated by the populace ignoring the truth of what the FBI is trying to do to us.”

The entirety of The Daily Dot’s interview with John McAfee can be heard below:

John McAfee Interview — The Daily Dot by William Turton

US Police Group: iPhone “Device of Choice” for Criminals

Three US police groups have filed a brief in court that Apple’s iPhone has become the “device of choice” for criminals, due to its strong encryption, and are aware of “numerous instances” in which suspects have switched from traditional “burner” phones to iPhones – though failed to provide any evidence of this claim – according to Vice News.

The brief does, though, cite the anecdotal tale of a New York jail inmate calling Apple’s smartphone “a gift from God” during a phonecall in 2015.

The filing, made by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and two other groups, is part of the ongoing case regarding the FBI’s attempts to force Apple to decrypt the iPhone of a suspect in the San Bernardino shootings last year. So far, Apple CEO Tim Cook has refused to allow US law enforcement to bypass encryption on the iOS operating system. Cook has told the court that he will continue to resist the FBI’s court order, saying that it “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

“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 US government,” Cook said. “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 the case continues, France has this week voted in a law designed to punish owners of security software for refusal to allow law enforcement to bypass encryption, Russia Today reports.

“Cyber Pathogen” Claims On Locked iPhone Made Up

The debate of privacy vs security is one that has lasted for hundreds of years, if not longer. With people claiming that while security is important, if that is compromised or done without checks, such as with the PRISM program, then our privacy means nothing to those who could abuse the system. Currently, Apple is debating this very same matter with the FBI in Congress, and it seems that one of the people who have come out in support of the FBI may have been using tall tales to back up his argument.

We’ve reported on Michael Ramos’s (a San Bernardino County District Attorney) claims that Apple must unlock the iPhone involved in the current case. His claims involved the fact that the phone, which was given to a county employee, had access to the San Bernardino infrastructure and could hold a “dormant cyber pathogen” which would be used to perform a terrorist attack on their infrastructure.

These claims were met with skepticism and some people even said it was like saying that you may find a “magic unicorn” on the iPhone. It now seems that even Ramos can’t hide from people as he has come out and told the Associated Press that he has no proof or knowledge that the phone could be used in that way.

In his response he states:

“This was a county employee that murdered 14 people and injured 22. Did he use the county’s infrastructure? Did he hack into that infrastructure? I don’t know. In order for me to really put that issue to rest, there is one piece of evidence that would absolutely let us know that, and that would be the iPhone.”

Jonathan Zdziarski commented on his personal blog about this response, talking about the original comments by explaining that “Ramos’s statements are not only misleading to the court, but amount to blatant fear mongering”.

It would seem like his original claims were just that, fear mongering, in the hopes of providing support to a personal point of view. The move seems to have backfired, offering only more fuel for the pro-encryption people backing Apple and their arguments that they need people who know about cyber-security making the decision.

Husband to San Bernadino Victim Backs Apple in iPhone Unlock Case

With the likes of Microsoft and Facebook supporting them, Apple is gearing up for their battle against the FBI over the iPhone unlock case from the San Bernadino shooting. In a surprise move, Apple has gained an unlikely and important supporter in their fight against the US government. In a letter filed with the court, Salihin Kondoker, an IT consultant whose wife was shot 3 times in the attack is backing Apple’s stance.

In his letter, Kondoker notes that he initially did not side with Apple but after learning more about the case, realized it there was more to it than simply unlocking one phone. He doesn’t believe that security is a worthwhile benefit for losing privacy and realizes the ramifications of Apple bending to the FBI’s will. Kondoker also notes as many other have, that the attacker’s work iPhone would be unlikely to contain any important information, as the county could have accessed it at any time prior to the attacks. Here are some excerpts from the letter.

When I first learned Apple was opposing the order I was frustrated that it would be yet another roadblock. But as I read more about their case, I have come to understand their fight is for something much bigger than one phone. They are worried that this software the government wants them to use will be used against millions of other innocent people. I share their fear.

I support Apple and the decision they have made. I don’t believe Tim Cook or any Apple employee believes in supporting terrorism any more than I do. I think the vicious attacks I’ve read in the media against one of America’s greatest companies are terrible.

Finally, and the reason for my letter to the court, I believe privacy is important and Apple should stay firm in their decision. Neither I, nor my wife, want to raise our children in a world where privacy is the tradeoff for security. I believe this case will have a huge impact all over the world.

You will have agencies coming from all over the world to get access to the software the FBI is asking Apple for. It will be abused all over to spy on innocent people.

America should be proud of Apple. Proud that it is an American company and we should protect them not try to tear them down.

In addition to Kondoker’s support, Apple has also been backed by the former heads of the NSA, the FBI, and Homeland Security, noting that the case is more complex than the FBI makes it out to be. They all warn against the loss of trust and privacy that would occur and that acting on fear and public opinion would lead down the wrong path.

District Attorney Says Apple Must Unlock iPhone

Apple is currently in the midst of a legal battle against the FBI. The FBI requested Apple’s help in unlocking an iPhone by creating a modified piece of software that would allow them to effectively bypass the passcode system used to protect the phone’s contents. Currently, the two parties are in talks with congress regarding everything from privacy and company policy to the question of encryption. A district attorney has now come out and stated that Apple must unlock the iPhone.

Michael Ramos is a San Bernardino County District Attorney. Ramos has stated that Apple must unlock the iPhone based on the fact that “the seized iPhone may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino’s infrastructure”. Effectively, Ramos is claiming that because it connected to the county system it “could” have been used to attack the infrastructure of San Bernardino.

So far the county has done what it can to distance itself from this quote, saying that “The county didn’t have anything to do with this brief. It was filed by the district attorney.”

iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski was less than convinced by the demand, stating that “it offers no evidence whatsoever” and going so far to say “they are essentially saying that a magical unicorn might exist on this phone”.

With the arguments gaining attention every day from even more parties, it is no surprise that someone would come out and say something that without any proof can only be described as scaremongering the court’s decisions in favour of the FBI.

Bill Gates “Disappointed” by Reports He Supports FBI over Apple

Yesterday, Bill Gates weighed in on the current feud between Apple and the FBI over the decryption of an iPhone belonging to a mass shooting suspect, during which he reportedly came out in support of the FBI, asserting that Apple should comply with the order to unlock the phone, something the company has so far refused to do. However, in a fresh interview with Bloomberg <GO>, Gates revealed that he was “disappointed” to see his statements taken out of context.

“I was disappointed ’cause that doesn’t state my view on this,” Gates told Bloomberg.

While Gates believes that his view was skewed by the media to appear more binary than it really is, the Microsoft founder did add that it doesn’t mean he supports Apple’s stance.

“It is no different than […] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information […] should anybody be able to get at bank records,” he said. “There’s no difference between information.”

“I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind,” Gates added. “But striking that balance — clearly the government has taken information historically and used it in ways we didn’t expect, going all the way back to say the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover.”

Image courtesy of BGR.

Over Half of Americans Think Apple Should Comply with FBI

Despite Apple’s firm stance against the FBI’s recent requests to unlock a criminal’s iPhone having won them the support of many who believe in digital privacy, a recently published Pew survey reports that the majority of the US public is not on their side. In a phone survey over the weekend, which reached 1000 respondents, Pew researchers reported that 51% of their respondents believed that Apple should comply with the FBI’s demands to unlock the iPhone used by the perpetrator of the San Bernardino attacks as part of their investigation. With 51% in favour of the FBI, this left only 38% of the respondents in support of Apple, with the remaining 11% remaining undecided.

No matter how the sample was split, the numbers were always in the FBI’s favour. The numbers were closest in the 18-29 age group, reaching a 47-43 split in favour of the FBI, meanwhile amongst those 65+, the division hit 54-27 to the FBI. In groups that owned a smart phone, the numbers were closer, and even more so amongst those who own an iPhone themselves, but those with another brand of smart phone swung the numbers even further from the Cupertino tech giant.

Whether this public perception towards Apple could affect their business remains to be seen, it could certainly be a deciding point in the case should opinion swing even further against them. Apple is yet to issue an official response to the FBI’s court orders, however, CEO Tim Cook urged employees to stand firm against the FBI in the case.

Tim Cook Urges Apple Employees to Stand Firm Against FBI in Leaked E-Mail

Following Apple’s refusal to bypass the decryption of its iPhones in order to comply with a legal mandate on behalf of the FBI, the company’s CEO Tim Cook has sent an internal e-mail to Apple Employees in the US explaining its defiant position and calling for unity.

The FBI took legal action in order to force Apple to decrypt the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, a suspect in the tragic San Bernardino shootings in December 2015. In order to provide the FBI entry to the phone, Apple would have to create a backdoor into its iOS software, a backdoor that the law enforcement agency “promises” to use only once. Apple has so far refused to comply, citing its users’ security and privacy as paramount.

Now, Cook has written to Apple employees – in an internal e-mail obtained by Buzzfeed – to clarify why the company is resisting the FBI’s attempts to bypass iPhone encryption, and promising to protect the “civil liberties” of millions of Americans:

Email to Apple employees from Apple CEO Tim Cook

Subject:  Thank you for your support

Team,

Last week we asked our customers and people across the United States to join a public dialogue about important issues facing our country. In the week since that letter, I’ve been grateful for the thought and discussion we’ve heard and read, as well as the outpouring of support we’ve received from across America.

As individuals and as a company, we have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists. When they commit unspeakable acts like the tragic attacks in San Bernardino, we work to help the authorities pursue justice for the victims. And that’s exactly what we did.

This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government’s order we knew we had to speak out. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.

As you know, we use encryption to protect our customers — whose data is under siege. We work hard to improve security with every software release because the threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated all the time.

Some advocates of the government’s order want us to roll back data protections to iOS 7, which we released in September 2013. Starting with iOS 8, we began encrypting data in a way that not even the iPhone itself can read without the user’s passcode, so if it is lost or stolen, our personal data, conversations, financial and health information are far more secure. We all know that turning back the clock on that progress would be a terrible idea.

Our fellow citizens know it, too. Over the past week I’ve received messages from thousands of people in all 50 states, and the overwhelming majority are writing to voice their strong support. One email was from a 13-year-old app developer who thanked us for standing up for “all future generations.” And a 30-year Army veteran told me, “Like my freedom, I will always consider my privacy as a treasure.”

I’ve also heard from many of you and I am especially grateful for your support.

Many people still have questions about the case and we want to make sure they understand the facts. So today we are posting answers on apple.com/customer-letter/answers/ to provide more information on this issue. I encourage you to read them.

Apple is a uniquely American company. It does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect.

Our country has always been strongest when we come together. We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.

People trust Apple to keep their data safe, and that data is an increasingly important part of everyone’s lives. You do an incredible job protecting them with the features we design into our products. Thank you.
Tim

Image courtesy of TechnoBuffalo.