Major Tech Companies Back Apple Ahead of Controversial Encryption Hearing

Major Tech Companies Back Apple Ahead of Controversial Encryption Hearing

iPHONE6

Dozens of companies have filed amicus briefs in support of Apple in controversial privacy battle with the FBI.

One of the most high profile cases regarding the battle between security and privacy has just gotten a lot more crowded.

Apple was previously ordered to assist the FBI in accessing an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters by creating software that would weaken the current security measures that were in place. The phone became inaccessible within 24 hours after retrieving it as a result of FBI error. This order was met with opposition from Apple CEO Tim Cook who, in a firm and lengthy response, wrote that "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 U.S. government. 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."

A number of major Technology and Internet companies have filed amicus briefs in support of Apple in the matter. One is a joint brief filed by Airbnb, Atlassian, Automattic, CloudFlare, eBay, GitHub, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Mapbox, Medium, Meetup, Reddit, Square, Squarespace, Twilio, Twitter, and Wickr. Both AT&T and Intel have filed separate legal briefs in support of Apple. Even the spouse of one of the San Bernardino victims has penned a letter to the court in support of Apple in the matter.

The joint filing reads, in part: "The government's request in this case rests not on any specific statutory authorization, but on the novel theory that federal courts may use the All Writs Act to compel third parties to provide whatever assistance the government deems necessary or convenient in any particular investigation. In other words, the government seeks unbounded authority to compel Apple to design software that does not currently exist and that will circumvent and undermine security measures intended to protect its users' data. This principle could require companies not just to turn over one user's information but to weaken security measures created to protect all users. Granting the government such extraordinary authority, without any set rules or legal protections, will not only erode user privacy and security and defeat users' interest in transparency, it will undermine an existing legislative framework balancing competing interests and policy considerations. The government's demand, at its core, is unbound by any legal limits. It would set a dangerous precedent, creating a world in which the government could simply force companies to create, design, and redesign their systems to allow law enforcement access to data, instead of requiring the government to use the measures, and meet the requirements, of legislatively enacted statutory schemes."

The Business Software Alliance - which includes dozens of companies including IBM and Autodesk - filed an amicus brief that argued that "a company cannot be compelled to develop a new product-here, new software that does not now exist-particularly when it will create security risks for all users of the company's products. The government's argument, moreover, has no limiting principle: any third party could be conscripted to produce new software that would allow the government to breach security measures."

In an accompanying press release, the BSA wrote: "Our groups have serious concerns over calls for weakened encryption and the implications they present to privacy and security. The All Writs Act does not authorize the government to force a company to create a new product or design a product in a particular way. Moreover, the government's interpretation of the All Writs Act leaves no room for weighing critical issues like maintaining the security of individuals' most personal information."

Apple has set up a page dedicated to Amicus Briefs that support the company in this battle, which will be updated as new ones are filed. These documents are directed at an upcoming hearing, currently scheduled for March 22, where the ruling will be reviewed.

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Good, this kind of thing is important. I would say it's interesting that a company is responding to the desires of the people and not the government but it's also entirely what you would expect isn't it?

It's kinda creepy how Google and Microsoft didn't make any real, official statements about this, or at least not that I'm aware of.
Bill Gates did say he's against Apple's stand here, but that's his private opinion since he's now completely irrelevant to Microsoft's business practices.

Though seeing Windows 10 and knowing Google... I can't assume anything good.

BiH-Kira:
It's kinda creepy how Google and Microsoft didn't make any real, official statements about this, or at least not that I'm aware of.
Bill Gates did say he's against Apple's stand here, but that's his private opinion since he's now completely irrelevant to Microsoft's business practices.

Though seeing Windows 10 and knowing Google... I can't assume anything good.

To be fair this is apple blowing smoke up everyone's asses. Ignore what the FBI has said. Ignore what apple has said. The actual court order they're fighting was: "oi apple. We are aware that making a back door would be insane and foolhearty. Take possession of this phone. Custom break ONLY THIS ONE PHONE, give the contents, without giving access to the firmware level, to the federal butt inspectors, destroy the phone and the custom break. You will be paid for your time."

HomuraDidNothinWrong:

To be fair this is apple blowing smoke up everyone's asses. Ignore what the FBI has said. Ignore what apple has said. The actual court order they're fighting was: "oi apple. We are aware that making a back door would be insane and foolhearty. Take possession of this phone. Custom break ONLY THIS ONE PHONE, give the contents, without giving access to the firmware level, to the federal butt inspectors, destroy the phone and the custom break. You will be paid for your time."

I'm interested to know where you found that information, as it occurred to me when I read your post that I had not actually seen the original court order for myself. After a brief stint of searching, the closest thing I could find was the open letter Tim Cook posted on Apple's website, which has this quote I think is relevant:

"Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by "brute force," trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer."

Valanthe:

HomuraDidNothinWrong:

To be fair this is apple blowing smoke up everyone's asses. Ignore what the FBI has said. Ignore what apple has said. The actual court order they're fighting was: "oi apple. We are aware that making a back door would be insane and foolhearty. Take possession of this phone. Custom break ONLY THIS ONE PHONE, give the contents, without giving access to the firmware level, to the federal butt inspectors, destroy the phone and the custom break. You will be paid for your time."

I'm interested to know where you found that information, as it occurred to me when I read your post that I had not actually seen the original court order for myself. After a brief stint of searching, the closest thing I could find was the open letter Tim Cook posted on Apple's website, which has this quote I think is relevant:

"Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by ?brute force,? trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer."

Ah. I re-read the court order (found here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/SB-Shooter-Order-Compelling-Apple-Asst-iPhone.pdf&q=apple%20court%20order&ved=0ahUKEwjo5KvJ1qvLAhUHvYMKHZLiCr8QFggbMAA&usg=AFQjCNF9Rdgc9U6qcNY3aGREimpTpEcDxQ&sig2=MoRYqLddGtAGoRSjaY5Zig )
And I misremembered parts of it, like the federal butt inspectors keep the phone. But the break is a custom break keyed to the one phone. Either way, Apple is blowing smoke up peoples ass because they don't want to lose potential terrorist customers.

HomuraDidNothinWrong:

To be fair this is apple blowing smoke up everyone's asses. Ignore what the FBI has said. Ignore what apple has said. The actual court order they're fighting was: "oi apple. We are aware that making a back door would be insane and foolhearty. Take possession of this phone. Custom break ONLY THIS ONE PHONE, give the contents, without giving access to the firmware level, to the federal butt inspectors, destroy the phone and the custom break. You will be paid for your time."

Interesting, but once you give someone an idea on how an in can be achieved with a phone, even if the other phones are different in their actual software, you're giving them a general idea on where to start and less trial and error than they would have started with. Why make it easy on them?

HomuraDidNothinWrong:
Ah. I re-read the court order (found here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/SB-Shooter-Order-Compelling-Apple-Asst-iPhone.pdf&q=apple%20court%20order&ved=0ahUKEwjo5KvJ1qvLAhUHvYMKHZLiCr8QFggbMAA&usg=AFQjCNF9Rdgc9U6qcNY3aGREimpTpEcDxQ&sig2=MoRYqLddGtAGoRSjaY5Zig )
And I misremembered parts of it, like the federal butt inspectors keep the phone. But the break is a custom break keyed to the one phone. Either way, Apple is blowing smoke up peoples ass because they don't want to lose potential terrorist customers.

Thank you, I was having a surprisingly hard time finding that.

Having read the order though, I can say with confidence that Apple is not in the wrong here (There's something I never thought I'd see myself say). The order does in fact say that this proposed software would be "coded by Apple with a unique identifier of the phone." What it fails to mention is that, like with any software, that could be changed very easily. What Apple is opposing is this software would, with very little effort, allow the FBI, or anyone else with access to that software, to access any Apple device, at will, without needing any kind of permission or reason.

Frankly, I am quite happy to side with Apple on this one.

HomuraDidNothinWrong:
But the break is a custom break keyed to the one phone. Apple is blowing smoke up peoples ass because they don't want to lose potential terrorist customers.

The break requested by the FBI changes two things in the operating system of that phone: the time delay between password attempts and the limit of ten attempts before the phone erases itself. It would need to be applied as a custom operating system on the phone, which means it would need Apple's signing key so that Apple could upload the crack to the phone. As such, contrary to the FBI's assertion that it would be `keyed to one device', anyone who had both the custom operating system and Apple's signing key could crack any iPhone with the same software as the phone in question.

Yes, it is very probable that Apple could keep those things secret if this crack were only ever done once. As it happens, however, the FBI and other organizations have two hundred more iPhones they want to crack by the same method. Let's say you're an Apple engineer, and a frightening person came to you and told you, "We have your children. Give us the cracking software or we'll mail you your children's heads." That crack, should it be made, would very literally be worth billions of dollars. Such temptation cannot be resisted by everyone, not for long.

Any exploit is a total exploit.

And anybody who believes this wouldn't get out into the world in under 24 hours is fantastically trusting of the government's ability to keep things under wraps. I mean they've only been hacked like three times last year and that's assuming Apple hasn't. I presume they have and they just keep it quieter.

I'm surprised there isn't an alternative here, the police can go to a shop, interview staff, collect evidence such as cctv, remove things from the shop related to the crime... It sounds like there is enough evidence to confirm who the suspect is and what he did, isn't Apple obligated to provide the information in a way which does not compromise all their customers?

 

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