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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Apple will not produce iOS backdoor for FBI, writes Tim Cook

Apple will not produce iOS backdoor for FBI, writes Tim Cook
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NewsPoster
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Feb 17, 2016, 08:50 AM
 
Apple is not going to give in to FBI demands to produce a backdoor for security used in iOS devices, with the company continuing to resist government requests for weaker device security. A "Message to Our Customers" from CEO Tim Cook advises Apple has already complied with some of the FBI's demands relating to one case where it can, but will not produce a workaround of important security aspects of iOS that "would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession."

Following a similar line to previous statements over device security and privacy, Cook writes about how Apple is "deeply committed to safeguarding" customer data on their iPhones. "Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. This is why encryption has become so important to all of us."

"For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers' personal data because we believe it's the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business."

Writing about the San Bernardino events of December, Cook notes the FBI requested help and Apple's compliance, as "We have no sympathy for terrorists." While Apple has complied with valid subpoenas and search warrants in relation to data in its possession, as well as providing access to engineers to help with investigations, it is balking at the prospect of building "a backdoor to the iPhone" by creating a version of iOS with weaker security that can be installed on a target iPhone to retrieve data. Apple claims this to be a tool "we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create," just in case it ends up in the wrong hands after being produced."

"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."

Cook goes on to explain that the creation of such a tool would not be of benefit to consumers in the long run, even if it is created with the intention of it being used for just this case. "The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."

The production of a tool to bypass security would "hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data," writes Cook. "Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them."

Cook believes the government request is a "dangerous precedent," with the demand bearing "chilling" implications. Using the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock an iPhone would give the government the "power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data," with the possibility of it extending the "breach of privacy" to force Apple to "build surveillance software" for the interception of messages, financial data, health records, location, "or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge."

Asking everyone to "step back and consider the implications, Cook finishes the letter stating "While we believe the FBI's intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Feb 17, 2016 at 08:54 AM. )
     
Ham Sandwich
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Feb 17, 2016, 09:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by NewsPoster View Post
Apple is not going to give in to FBI demands
Then they are being disobedient to the FBI and should be punished. This is a single felon's case. If you're a real serious felon (e.g., the shooter) and are caught in the act, then you reap what you sew. If that means the FBI reads a felon's phone data for case evidence, then they should be able to do that.
     
I-ku-u
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Feb 17, 2016, 10:34 AM
 
This is a case involving two dead felons, actually. But so what?

The judge's order is to aid the FBI in creating a tool that can then be used against millions of other phones. That is beyond reasonable, regardless of the individual case it is supposedly limited to.
     
I-ku-u
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Feb 17, 2016, 10:39 AM
 
Can't seem to find a way to edit my last post, which I want to correct, by replacing "felons" with perpetrators.

(because technically, the dead individuals are not felons, because they died in the process of committing their actions)
     
nat
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Feb 17, 2016, 10:57 AM
 
There's no such thing as a backdoor that will only be used by the good guys.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 10:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by And.reg View Post
Then they are being disobedient to the FBI and should be punished. This is a single felon's case. If you're a real serious felon (e.g., the shooter) and are caught in the act, then you reap what you sew. If that means the FBI reads a felon's phone data for case evidence, then they should be able to do that.
Justice will not be served by the unlock, as the FBI has already said that they know everything about the pair, plus, they're dead. So, on that basis alone, the order should have never been given. The order is prejudicial to an uninvolved third-party (Apple), and should be dismissed on those grounds.

Secondly, they are directly demanding Apple build a back door into the phones. There is no legal precedent to do that.

The real issue here, is that the county didn't follow best IT practices regarding user passwords and device accessibility. Is the county going to get penalized for that?
     
Ham Sandwich
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Feb 17, 2016, 11:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by I-ku-u View Post
The judge's order is to aid the FBI in creating a tool that can then be used against millions of other phones.
No, the judge's order is to aid the FBI in granting access to the phone(s) of those criminals.

Originally Posted by nat View Post
There's no such thing as a backdoor that will only be used by the good guys.
If other people start using that tool against "millions of other phones" then they should be found out and caught and charged.

Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
Justice will not be served by the unlock, as the FBI has already said that they know everything about the pair, plus, they're dead. So, on that basis alone, the order should have never been given.
And since they're dead, they have no more rights anyway, so on that basis I agree that an order was unnecessary.

Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
Secondly, they are directly demanding Apple build a back door into the phones. There is no legal precedent to do that.
There should be, and the access keys should be protected and used only by the government, and the relevant content accessed by lawyers as needed in court cases.

Keep in mind that lawyers have had access to emails of court case parties for the last 25 years anyway.

Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
The real issue here, is that the county didn't follow best IT practices regarding user passwords and device accessibility. Is the county going to get penalized for that?
Who said anything about penalizing the country? This is about convicted felons. If you don't want your phone accessed, then (emphasis) don't become a convicted felon.
     
dmwalsh568
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Feb 17, 2016, 11:08 AM
 
It's one thing to force a company to share tools that exist but may be kept private for competitive reasons. But it's a completely different level of intrusion to require that a private company create a tool to be used against its users.
I may not like everything Tim Cook has done as head of Apple, but in this case I'm 100% behind him! I hope this order gets slapped down hard in the appeals court.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 11:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by And.reg View Post
And since they're dead, they have no more rights anyway, so on that basis I agree that an order was unnecessary.
Legally incorrect. Deceased have the same rights against self-incrimination that the alive do.

Keep in mind that lawyers have had access to emails of court case parties for the last 25 years anyway.
Then there's no need for the unlock.

Who said anything about penalizing the country? This is about convicted felons. If you don't want your phone accessed, then (emphasis) don't become a convicted felon.
This isn't about convicted felons. They never had their day in court. Also, felons don't give up the right against self-incrimination.

And.reg, I know what you want, and why you want it, but there is no legal precedent for it. Nor should there ever be.
     
Ham Sandwich
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Feb 17, 2016, 11:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by dmwalsh568 View Post
But it's a completely different level of intrusion to require that a private company create a tool to be used against its users.
I may not like everything Tim Cook has done as head of Apple, but in this case I'm 100% behind him!
Well I am 100% not. If there is a federal order that says "give me access" to relevant data because of a relevant case, and you refuse, then you should face consequences. "Tool" is a catch-all, and there are by-hand, case-by-case ways of handling individual data. I'm sure that Apple has (or can make) a way to allow, through careful and manual coding, access to individual devices, though an albeit time-consuming process, so much that it would be extremely difficult to misappropriate that access to other phones via some general algorithm. Problem solved, debate over.

Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
This isn't about convicted felons. They never had their day in court.
Doesn't matter, my point is that they willfully committed a life-threatening crime, that's serious enough.

As for the rest... I disagree. Why do you think court orders have been around and access has been legally granted in past cases to various parts of people's lives, electronic or otherwise?
     
dmwalsh568
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Feb 17, 2016, 11:48 AM
 
@And.reg said "I'm sure that Apple has (or can make) a way to allow, through careful and manual coding, access to individual devices, though an albeit time-consuming process, so much that it would be extremely difficult to misappropriate that access to other phones via some general algorithm. Problem solved, debate over."
Well, since you say so, it must be so. Thanks for showing us the error of our ways with your razor sharp intellect and legal reasoning. With reasoning like this we should make you the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Alito, since you can be sure of things you have no direct knowledge of and can make folks do things that may be impossible. Kudos.
     
jameshays
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Feb 17, 2016, 12:17 PM
 
All of you that are even entertaining this notion of apple creating a backdoor for the government have a sick and twisted view of personal rights. If its a county phone, they should have a back door through their MDM access. If they don't, shame on them. My personal device does not need a back door.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 12:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by And.reg View Post
As for the rest... I disagree. Why do you think court orders have been around and access has been legally granted in past cases to various parts of people's lives, electronic or otherwise?
Apple has given support to the FBI on this already - read Cook's letter in its entirety. The data Apple holds, they give with a court order. They have done so.

So now, the FBI wants this back door built, which is prejudicial against the rest of the OS' users. The most secure way to ensure that there aren't back doors that can be misused by miscreants is literally to not build them in the first place. It is against Apple's interests to do so, and there is precedent for them to not do so, legally.

I dislike metaphors for tech concepts, but how is this different from giving law enforcement a master key to every house, everywhere? Then you tell them "use this key only for good" when we have evidence that the government has no issue with illegal search and seizure, and rampant data collection with related invasions of privacy.

And then, how do we guarantee that the wrong parties won't figure it out? Threat of prosecution is not really enough of a deterrent to prevent this kind of hackery, as crime continues.

Like I said, I know you disagree. I just think your rationales for protection and proper utilization of a tool like this after it has been made and deployed, which amount to little more than "prevent the bad guys by threatening them against using it" won't work.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 12:27 PM
 
And to all users, as a reminder, this is a front-page news item, not the PWL.

Civility is a must.
     
Hillbilly Geek
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Feb 17, 2016, 12:38 PM
 
All you young ijits who trust the government will always do the right thing are cute. Dangerous to my freedom and annoying, but cute. Too bad you can vote.
     
Flying Meat
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Feb 17, 2016, 01:04 PM
 
Welcome to China!
     
chimaera
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Feb 17, 2016, 02:24 PM
 
If Apple caved and provided such an ability to the US government, most other governments will ask for it too. Or write such a requirement into their laws, if Apple wants to sell phones there.

Should we OK back doors, China wants them too. And Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Iran, Russia. Lots of interested parties.

The largest number of interested parties though, are the phone owners. I don't want my phone to have a backdoor, and Apple is the only one representing my interest before the court. My opinion of Cook has gone up steadily for the last few years.
     
panjandrum
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Feb 17, 2016, 02:45 PM
 
It goes to show just how out-of-touch government entities can be that they would even request this. Apple basically can't give in on this, regardless of any moral or ethical implications, as it could certainly mean than no institution of any kind would be legally able to purchase an iOS devices in the future (think hospitals and HIPPA, for example, or government employees, or lawyers, or, or, or...). Because, one would think, that devices with a known backdoor could not be legally used by individuals or organizations which are legally-obligated to protect privacy and or secrets, this could have considerable impact on sales of Apple products. I just don't see how it could work. Add to that, unfortunately, no government (or corporation, or even an individual for that matter) could be trusted not to use such a technology only "for the better good" and you've got an even nastier issue: that governments, no matter how much you may believe in them, often act in ways that can only be considered purely evil (don't believe me? Google McCarthyism, Google Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Google "total number of treaties with Native Americans broken"). No government could be trusted with such a tool. Period. (I still think a "Shockwave Rider" scenario is interesting as a thought-experiment however: Imagine a world in which ALL digital communication and records are retroactively and permanently unencrypted; yes all personal secrets, but also, and much more importantly, all government and corporate secrets. A level playing-field in which every illegal act is brought to light...)
     
Chongo
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Feb 17, 2016, 02:51 PM
 
Despite claims to the contrary, the odds Apple already has a backdoor are very good. Cook just doesn't want anyone to know Apple isn't any better than Google when it come to privacy, or lack thereof.
     
Charles Martin
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Feb 17, 2016, 02:52 PM
 
I'm generally more pro-government than anti-government, but people who think that such a backdoor won't be abused by the government, criminals, or both are guilty of dangerous naivete, not to mention the Trumpian qualities of a fundamental misconception of the privacy rights granted in the Constitution, a disregard of history, and an inability to think ideas through.
Charles Martin
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ChetBudney
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Feb 17, 2016, 03:41 PM
 
So, Tim Cook's conscience won't allow him to hack iOS with an encryption back door. Admirable, but in violation of a Federal judge's order.

Here's an idea - Let's treat Apple the same way that Oregon judge treated the bakery owners, who wouldn't violate THEIR conscience, and provide a wedding cake for a gay couple. Let's fine Apple one million dollars per day, for each day they refuse to unlock that iPhone. After March 1, let's up it to 10 million dollars per day. After April 1, to 100 million dollars per day.

Eventually, our government would bankrupt Apple and force them to close, just like the bakery owners were forced to do. Anyone else happy to have traded their liberty and freedom in, for peace and security?

Wake up, people - Federal judges are appointed by presidents, and presidents are elected by YOU...
     
bbh
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Feb 17, 2016, 04:24 PM
 
"There should be, and the access keys should be protected and used only by the government, and the relevant content accessed by lawyers as needed in court cases."

You are beyond naive. I, and millions of others am NOT willing to give up my privacy so the government can go on a fishing expedition.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 17, 2016, 04:31 PM
 
You're missing the point, Chet. Apple doesn't have the passcode for the phone, and can't just flip an Internet switch and decrypt the phone. What the FBI is demanding in this showdown, and make no mistake that that's what this is, is to build the tools to allow a back door for investigators to break into the phone.

The FBI already has the call info from the couple, and GPS info. They got that from the carrier. What else could they possibly want that would be on the phone, just on the phone, and not someplace else?

There's no law requiring a third party to do this -- there is a nondiscrimination one with the Oregon bakery. What's worse, is the judge has no concept of the lack of laws regarding this and assumes that Apple has a magic tool to do so, which is tragic.
     
panjandrum
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Feb 17, 2016, 06:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by Hillbilly Geek View Post
All you young ijits who trust the government will always do the right thing are cute. Dangerous to my freedom and annoying, but cute. Too bad you can vote.
Interestingly, I think you have that backwards (IIRC, this is from an NPR program about a year back): Speaking about the government of the United States, for the most part older people, born before the Vietnam War, are more inclined to trust the government. (The theory being that they grew-up in a post-WWII mentality where the government was implicitly trusted by the majority of middle-class-and-up white americans). Younger people who have grown up after the Vietnam War, are much more likely to be skeptical of government motives because they have spent the entirety of their lives in a country where the government is known to be untrustworthy. Add to that all of the atrocities the government has had to admit to over the past decades (I mention a few in a previous post in this thread), and you have a culture in which the vast majority of youth question government motives. That's, of course, an overall metric, and I expect it doesn't take into account historical views of minorities particularly well. Regardless, it was in interesting listen. I expect if you google the topic you might find the audio available online.
     
Flying Meat
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Feb 17, 2016, 06:42 PM
 
I think Hillbilly Geek maybe didn't mean to include a limiting factor based on age.
It was probably just the fogey of war, that clouded his judgement.
     
Hillbilly Geek
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Feb 17, 2016, 07:40 PM
 
Hey, FM and Panj: (fogey of war will be my new handle - nice!)
Granted, it's the cliché that older people trust the government more, but a whole lot of younger peeps have no idea, and an oversupply of naïveté. Just sayin.
     
ampm99
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Feb 17, 2016, 08:37 PM
 
The FBI created this conundrum themselves. If the FBI had not violated the constitution in the past, they would have earned the public trust and everyone would be on their side here. From the wiretapping of Dr Martin Luther King to all the other excesses of J Edgar Hoover to Snowden. Not sure if Snowden blew the whistle on just the NSA or the FBI as well but no one trusts the FBI or the rest of the government to do the right thing. I find it telling that the FBI always starts the conversation with a Boogie Man (terrorists or the mafia or child molesters) before they trample your rights. Who could disagree?
A court order to create code the FBI themselves cannot create demonstrates how the courts been complicit in trampling your rights. What do we know about this judge? How many of these FBI requests has this judge rubber-stamped in the past?
I applaud Tim Cook for voicing what we all know in our hearts; The government cannot be trusted on privacy issues.
     
Chongo
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Feb 18, 2016, 09:30 AM
 
Cross posting:
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 12:22 PM. )
     
MitchIves
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Feb 18, 2016, 01:16 PM
 
Good for Mr. Cook. Stand your ground. The government is the death of a thousand cuts. Everything is always "we just need it once, we won't use it against honest people". Yeah, that's what you said about drones!
     
   
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