Not how I want to be proven right: What I’m reading, March 29, 2016

Apple

In a recent blog entry, I wrote, “Either there is a ‘back door’ or other security vulnerability allowing access to what should be secure devices or there isn’t (and very much more often than not, there is).”[1] That parenthetical part? In the case of the iPhone that the FBI wanted access to so badly it sought a court order to compel Apple to help it break in, that parenthetical part was right. But then there was, evidently, a “non-government ‘outside party’ that showed agents how to get past the phone’s security defenses. . . . Apple responded by saying it will continue to increase the security of its products.” And the FBI has dropped the case against Apple.[2]

There are a couple reasons for not being happy with this outcome. First, “[t]he surprise development punctured the temporary perception that Apple’s security might have been good enough to keep consumers’ personal information safe even from the U.S. government.”[3] It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it most definitely is a disappointment. As I was trying to explain with that blog post, whatever we think of the owner of that phone and whatever we think of the FBI, there are other actors who may also find the vulnerability[4] that the FBI has now exploited.

Second, “[t]echnology and civil liberties organizations say they’re concerned the case is far from settled, with some worrying that smaller companies might not have the resources to fight off similar demands.”[5] Yup. It looks like there is a case to be made that the U.S. government’s demand was illegal on its face and that a law Congress passed to prevent this sort of demand was specifically intended to prevent this kind of abuse.[6] But the government will now be free to try again:

A law enforcement official said the FBI would continue to aid its local and state partners with gaining evidence in cases — implying that the method would be shared with them. The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly comment.

High on the waiting list for assistance likely is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who told a U.S. House panel earlier this month that he has 205 iPhones his investigators can’t access data from in criminal investigations. Apple is also opposing requests to help extract information from 14 Apple devices in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York.[7]

Tami Abdollah and Brandon Bailey, “US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger,” McClatchy, March 29, 2016, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article68750762.html?rh=1


Footnotes

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Absolutely, there is a bug,” Not Housebroken, March 12, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8816
  2. [2]Tami Abdollah and Brandon Bailey, “US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger,” McClatchy, March 29, 2016, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article68750762.html?rh=1
  3. [3]Tami Abdollah and Brandon Bailey, “US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger,” McClatchy, March 29, 2016, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article68750762.html?rh=1
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Absolutely, there is a bug,” Not Housebroken, March 12, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8816
  5. [5]Tami Abdollah and Brandon Bailey, “US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger,” McClatchy, March 29, 2016, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article68750762.html?rh=1
  6. [6]Susan Crawford, “The Law is Clear: The FBI Cannot Make Apple Rewrite its OS,” Backchannel, March 16, 2016, https://backchannel.com/the-law-is-clear-the-fbi-cannot-make-apple-rewrite-its-os-9ae60c3bbc7b
  7. [7]Tami Abdollah and Brandon Bailey, “US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger,” McClatchy, March 29, 2016, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article68750762.html?rh=1

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