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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Judge: Apple must provide iOS unlock tools to FBI in CA shooter case

Judge: Apple must provide iOS unlock tools to FBI in CA shooter case
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NewsPoster
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Feb 17, 2016, 12:51 AM
 
On Tuesday, a US magistrate judge ordered Apple to comply with FBI requests to help the law enforcement agency get into a criminal's county-owned iPhone, in this case used by one of the perpetrators of the mass-shooting that happened in San Bernadino, California last December. Apple would not be required to override the passcode itself, but is being compelled to develop and give the FBI software that would prevent the iPhone from erasing itself after a number of unsuccessful login attempts, allowing the agency to brute-force unlock the iPhone.


Syed Rizwan Farook, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and injured another 22 in an attack targeting the San Bernadino County Department of Public Health, which was having a training event and holiday party at the time. Farook, who was born in the US and had worked at the health department, and his wife attacked the event in an attempted bombing along with the mass shooting. The couple were killed in a shootout with police four hours after the attack.

Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to provide software that would prevent the iPhone from automatically erasing itself, though it is unclear why the FBI still needs the data from the iPhone. The agency has already declared that Farook and Malik were not members of any terrorist organization or "sleeper cell" agents, and had become "radicalized" on their own without working with any co-conspirators.

FBI Director James Comey, who has been critical of the trend of Apple and other tech companies to protect customers' privacy by encrypting smartphones and other devices in an extremely hard-to-decrypt manner, said that the agency had been working on Farook's iPhone "for two months, and we are still working" at decrypting it. "We still have one of those killers' phones that we haven't been able to open," he said, suggesting it was able to decrypt another phone owned by the couple. The iPhone has been identified as a government-owned 32-bit iPhone 5c without the "secure enclave" feature associated with Touch ID and Appke Pay, and the Washington Post has reported the device was running iOS 9. The San Bernardino government has given permission to search the phone.

Apple has five days to challenge the ruling in an appeal, as spelled out in the court order. Besides the need to decrypt the iPhone being irrelevant to the interests of justice, as the pair were killed in the shootout, providing the FBI with software able to override the automatic erasure of data after failed access attempts would give the agency a tool that it would be likely to abuse in other cases. It is also unclear if Apple can even comply with the judge's order to create the software requested by the FBI, as the auto-erase function is likely embedded in the firmware of the device.

Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said after the ruling that the unlock demand was made to "exhaust every investigative lead in the case.'' Decker added that "we have made a solemn commitment to the victims and their families that we will leave no stone unturned as we gather as much information and evidence as possible. These victims and families deserve nothing less. The application filed today in federal court is another step -- a potentially important step -- in the process of learning everything we possibly can about the attack in San Bernardino."

Apple has repeatedly said that it does not have a "key" to the encryption used on its iPhones with iOS 8 or above installed regardless of the presence of a secure enclave, meaning that it cannot assist in decrypting the contents of a device even if asked lawfully. Law enforcement agencies have software able to work out simple pass codes such as the four-digit ones most commonly used on iPhones, but are thwarted by the automatic erasing protection after a certain number of failed attempts activated when a user sets their iPhone in "lost mode" or activates the "Find My iPhone" security feature.

Order to Compel Apple to Assist With SB Shooter Unlock

( Last edited by NewsPoster; Feb 17, 2016 at 09:19 AM. )
     
aj1245
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Feb 17, 2016, 07:04 AM
 
What is the workaround going forward?

Could apple offer users the option to use "open source" security code when the IOS device is setup?
     
davoud
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Feb 17, 2016, 01:00 PM
 
There seems to be a lot of FUD over this case. The main fact is that the lawful owner of the phone, the County of San Bernardino, has authorized the FBI to probe its contents. That alone should be enough to end this controversy.

The FBI knows that Apple does not have the encryption keys for the phone. It is asking Apple to disable the function that causes the phone to erase its data after 10 failed password attempts.

To say that if Apple acts to aid the FBI investigation into this terrorist attack is a threat to every peaceful American is a huge leap of fancy, not to mention a large measure of paranoia.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 01:39 PM
 
And with proper device management tools, which Apple does have a hand in providing, it wouldn't have been an issue. I've got no issue with Apple aiding the FBI. I'm sure that every piece of data that Apple holds on the pair has already been turned over.

However, to say that this isn't a problem for every peaceful American isn't true. It's a problem for this peaceful American, and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only one. The password failure erasure is a feature of the OS, to prevent privacy intrusions that will be aided by the existence of a tool to bypass those protections.
     
chimaera
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Feb 17, 2016, 02:12 PM
 
Is anyone else thinking the FBI is using a hot-button public issue to fish for a "Break-Into-iPhones" tool?

The case is solved, and justice has been served. The murderers paid with their lives.

But if the FBI can get a cracking tool from Apple, I'm sure they will keep it. Bound to be more uses for it.
     
txcrude
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Feb 17, 2016, 03:51 PM
 
if this was a government / San Bernardino County owned iPhone I would assume they had some kind of Enterprise Mobility software / profile on the device that should let them manage the device remotely and< presumably' unlock it as well.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 05:52 PM
 
It is SB county's phone. They don't appear to have remote management enabled, which is a problem that is being overlooked by the White House, as well as the FBI.
     
Chongo
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Feb 18, 2016, 09:16 AM
 
This might have more to do with protecting the ME market.
Apple Unlocked iPhones for the Feds 70 Times Before - The Daily Beast
( Last edited by Chongo; Feb 18, 2016 at 12:26 PM. )
     
HPeet
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Feb 18, 2016, 09:35 AM
 
"We still have one of those killers' phones that we haven't been able to open,"

So what kind of phone was the other one, the one that they were able to open?

Just asking.
     
Chongo
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Feb 18, 2016, 12:26 PM
 
I'd guess an android phone.
     
Ragnarok Odin
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Feb 18, 2016, 04:17 PM
 
So, if Apple can be ordered by a judge to do something, that may not be possible, then what happens? Let's take this more to the extreme. Let's say a judge ordered Apple to build a time machine, so the FBI can go back in time to stop those two people from doing what they did. The point I'm trying to make, I guess, is that just because a Judge or whoever orders somebody to do something, doesn't mean it can be done. For our sake, I hope Apple fights this all the way, and even if they lose in front of the U.S. Supreme court, I hope that what they have been asked to do, is an impossible task. IF they are ordered to make future iPhones with a back door, then my iPhone 6+ will probably be my last iPhone, or the 6s+. I do reserve the right to change my mind though. LOL
     
Leonard
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Feb 19, 2016, 04:37 PM
 
Apparently the Judge can only order a company to do something within reason, from what I read. If it causes a company undue hardship to create something, the company can say no with a valid justification.
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HPeet
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Feb 20, 2016, 07:10 AM
 
Chongo - To answer my own question previously:

2/19/16 - By Los Angeles Times staff

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tn-apple-fbi-call-20160219-story.html

Authorities investigating the shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14 people in December -- the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 -- recovered three cellphones belonging to the assailants. Two of them had been destroyed, while a third one found in the shooters' vehicle was locked by a short, numeric passcode.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Feb 20, 2016, 11:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by davoud View Post
To say that if Apple acts to aid the FBI investigation into this terrorist attack is a threat to every peaceful American is a huge leap of fancy, not to mention a large measure of paranoia.
If Apple is forced to comply, which they might be... the FBI will have access to any such device they would like.

And, not trusting the gov't with that kind of power isn't paranoia, it's just common sense.
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ptklenk
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Feb 26, 2016, 04:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by Steve Wilkinson View Post
If Apple is forced to comply, which they might be... the FBI will have access to any such device they would like.

And, not trusting the gov't with that kind of power isn't paranoia, it's just common sense.
I would go along with that, Steve, based upon recent governmental history including the IRS targeting conservative groups and former Secretary of State, Clinton. fabricating story after story concerning Benghazi and her email. She was a governmental agent during this behavior.http://forums.macnn.com/images/smilies/bang.gif
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Feb 26, 2016, 04:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by ptklenk View Post
I would go along with that, Steve, based upon recent governmental history including the IRS targeting conservative groups and former Secretary of State, Clinton. fabricating story after story concerning Benghazi and her email. She was a governmental agent during this behavior.http://forums.macnn.com/images/smilies/bang.gif
For sure. The USA gov't is far from as corrupt as it could be, but I think it's *WAY* more corrupt than most people realize. AND, it's not just one party or the other, it's both. (And, I say that being a strong conservative, but certainly not Republican anymore.)

I'd suggest listening to a podcast called Congressional Dish if you want to start to see how bad it is. The host basically goes over the bills that are going through Congress. While I don't always agree with her take on things, it's really interesting to see what's actually going on vs what the press is saying (or failing to say).

And, if you want to dig a bit further, an interesting podcast is No Agenda. They do a lot of media deconstruction and comparison, poke fun at a lot of what's going on, and cover/create a lot of conspiracy theories, many of which I'm not sure are all that 'theory' anymore. It's a fun show, and if you're reasonably good at critical thinking (so as to separate the joke, from the conspiracy theory, from the reality), it's a great information source in the kind of 'behind the news' sense.
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