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Apple's Message To It's Customers Regarding an FBI Proposal


KyleKeeling

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Yesterday, Apple posted an open letter on their home screen titled, "An Important Message To Our Customers". This letter regards in FBI proposal that Apple has stated this to "threaten the security of our customers".

Here's the letter in it's entirety.

February 16, 2016

A Message to Our Customers

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That 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.

The San Bernardino Case

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

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.

The Threat to Data Security

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

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 government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent

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.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

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.

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.

Tim Cook

 

 

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Thanks for the massive copypasta.

 

The actual issue in this case is an interesting one. Apple doesn't have the decryption key for the phone because it's stored locally and inaccessible. They've been asked to basically modify the OS code to make it possible to attempt a PIN more than 10 times without the phone wiping.

 

Currently there's no national law on the statute books in the US which obliges a provider to intentionally introduce a vulnerability into a product to allow law enforcement access. However several states are in fact trying to implement laws doing just that. So I encourage any of you living in these states to object to these, as they make everything less secure firvtge rest of the user base.

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The government is way off base with how they are acting. I'm all for beating terrorists, but there's a line we need to draw. Risks we shouldn't have. Putting a backdoor in phones and computers doesn't just allow the government from viewing and hacking terrorists or possible terrorists, it allows anyone with the means to do so access.

 

It also is a line between a police state, where a joke about bombs or any crime, can be used against you, with zero context needed.

 

I trust the government as an entity, but I don't trust each and every law enforcement agent in this country with the power to access my phones, my cameras, my private information, what comic books I'm buying next week. It's not theirs to see. It's not theirs to know. Legal or not. It's a path this country does not need to go further down.

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If they do it, they do it. But what they want is for Apple to make it easier for them. They want to open up every iOS device to further hacking. Whether we the people want that or not.

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Apple should offer to do it on the condition that the FBI sends them the phone, they retrieve the data and only send the data back to the FBI. Tim Cook should say it in public/social media that way if the FBI says no, then everyone would know that its about the backdoor and not the data on the phone


This is all grandstanding anyway. The FBI is getting into that phone, with or without Apple's help.

From what i understand, the reason for the FBI reaching out to Apple is, the type of encryption on the phone will delete the data off the phone after a certain amount of attempts to unlock it. i maybe wrong but thats what i heard of the news.

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Apple should offer to do it on the condition that the FBI sends them the phone, they retrieve the data and only send the data back to the FBI. Tim Cook should say it in public/social media that way if the FBI says no, then everyone would know that its about the backdoor and not the data on the phone

 

This is all grandstanding anyway. The FBI is getting into that phone, with or without Apple's help.

From what i understand, the reason for the FBI reaching out to Apple is, the type of encryption on the phone will delete the data off the phone after a certain amount of attempts to unlock it. i maybe wrong but thats what i heard of the news.

It's a very strong possibility that the FBI doesn't care so much about this particular phone, but that they can force Apple to build a backdoor despite the decision by the president not to leagally force phone developers to build them into all phones going in the future.

 

http://9to5mac.com/2016/02/19/donald-trump-apple-boycott-iphone/?pushup=1

 

So I doubt the FBI would agree to anything less than free use of tech that would break the security of phones. The San Bernardino killer's phone is just an excuse to gain access to all iPhones.

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I was watching ABC World News earlier on TV and they mentioned that something was changed and now it'll be even harder to retrieve data. That something could have been a pass code or the Apple ID, I can't remember honestly. I haven't used an Apple product in ages, but I have gained so much more respect for them during this entire charade. They know privacy matters to their customers and they're doing everything they can to protect them. Unfortunately, you can't just unlock just one phone with this program / backdoor they want, but if they did develop it then a lot of people would be vulnerable.

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Yeah, they changed the AppleID or something like that. I'm not completely sure, what that means, and I've used iPhones for years. Did they change the AppleID associated with the phone? How would that make it harder, I don't know.

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To even change the Apple ID, I'm sure you have to unlock the phone first.. if it's true, then I'd love to know how the hell it was even changed, as well as who changed it.

Edited by Android
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Here is a good article that sums up the story and explains why Apple has good reason to not comply...

 

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2016/2/fbi-fight-with-apple-is-a-big-farce-to-get-inside-your-phone.html

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As opposed to CNN or f*cking Fox? Al-Jazeera are one of, if not the most reliable news network in the world. Hope you were joking though, and it went over my head :p

Edited by MyName'sJeff
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yes it should painfully obvious I was joking...

 

the whole story is really interesting.

of course Apple should be applauded for their position in all of this. but the precedent itself is interesting. not necessarily San Bernardino but in general.

 

for sh/ts and giggles; what if a situation arose in which the government believed they could actively prevent a terror situation by hacking a phone?

does the CIA not already have the authority to access live cell phone reception/data? should their be some kind of safeguard which allows you to temporarily backdoor a single device?

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AL Jazeera aren't really that reliable. They're funded predominantly by the Qatari royal family. And we are only talking about an opinion piece here.

 

That said there's definitely some merit to the argument they're making. I'm also inclined to think this is about setting a legal precedent rather than obtaining any meaningful information, but to be honest I'm not even sure their demands are technically feasible. Updating is user-initiated and to the best of my knowledge requires the phone to be unlocked.

 

And no, I don't think there should be any safeguards to allow the backdooring of any device, temporary or otherwise. Installing the capability to obtain backdoor access is astonishingly bad for security in general.

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Okay, so the news of today is that the FBI requested of San Bernardino county, who really owns the phone, to change the iCloud password. The FBI has yet to give a reason for this, but the big consequence to this change was that now, without the phone's lock passcode, Apple could not retrieve the iCloud data from the phone without the proposed backdoor.

 

Some are, of course, saying that the FBI knew this would be the case, and did so to force Apple to create the backdoor.

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Bill Gates weighs in on the controversy:

 

 

"Nobody’s talking about a backdoor, so that’s not the right question. This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They’re not asking for some general thing, they’re asking for a particular case," Gates said in the interview. He said the government is only looking for "a specific set of information" and not a master key to break into other phones.

 

"It is no different than [the question of] 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. "Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, 'Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times.'"

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/bill-gates-weighs-encryption-battle-apple-fbi/story?id=37133232

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but encryption on a single phone is not entirely applicable to the same encryption keys for all phones, right? All the FBI has to do is come up with a method that does not compromise the privacy of other phones, and thus present that as plausible method. Rather, Apple has seized this moment, has not considered any viable alternative, and is thus using it as a publicity stunt to coax their already-loyal fans into continuing to buy their overpriced garbage.

 

- This comment was paid for by Microsoft ;)

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Anyone whose technically minded and wants to hear a "from the horses mouth" summary from a forensic investigator whose job it is to actually extract data from these phones could do a lot worse than reading the most recent SANS Digital Forensics blog:

 

https://digital-forensics.sans.org/blog/2016/02/23/iphone-forensics-separating-the-facts-from-fiction-a-technical-autopsy-of-the-apple-fbi-debate

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The FBI is already lining up a dozen other iPhones to crack, but none except for Farook's, is involved in cases of terrorist acts.

 

http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/23/11097044/us-forcing-apple-to-unlock-dozen-iphones-says-wsj

Edited by darthYENIK
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Bill Gates weighs in on the controversy:

 

 

 

"Nobodys talking about a backdoor, so thats not the right question. This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. Theyre not asking for some general thing, theyre asking for a particular case," Gates said in the interview. He said the government is only looking for "a specific set of information" and not a master key to break into other phones.

 

"It is no different than [the question of] 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. "Lets say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, 'Dont make me cut this ribbon because youll make me cut it many times.'"

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/bill-gates-weighs-encryption-battle-apple-fbi/story?id=37133232

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but encryption on a single phone is not entirely applicable to the same encryption keys for all phones, right? All the FBI has to do is come up with a method that does not compromise the privacy of other phones, and thus present that as plausible method. Rather, Apple has seized this moment, has not considered any viable alternative, and is thus using it as a publicity stunt to coax their already-loyal fans into continuing to buy their overpriced garbage.

 

- This comment was paid for by Microsoft ;)

Wow Gates is even stupider than I realize. By the way who is going to listen to security from a Microsoft executive? It only took them 15 years to make an OS with real users and permissions.

 

The Internet is a series of tubes

 

Sivi,

 

That article still doesn't explain why they don't just physically pull the memory off the circuit board and it free of Apple's software and motherboard. If this case is thst important they could hire some chip manufacturer to do this in a week. Is there some voodoo Apple has that makes that impossible too?

 

This cracks me up because I remember back when people would talk about encryption and file wiping... "Oh the government has sophisticated equipment and could piece a broken hard drive together or find latent data on it with magnetic imaging". Yeaahh but they can't dump the memory off a f*cking iPhone.

 

The simplest solution to this would be to drop the compulsory nature of the request so it cannot set a legal precedent, and then have the FBI relinquish possession of the device to Apple and let them get the information needed in house.

 

No precedent, no hacking tool for the FBI to use later.

Edited by SagaciousKJB
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That article still doesn't explain why they don't just physically pull the memory off the circuit board and it free of Apple's software and motherboard.

It does, actually:

 

 

The Apple A5 (and newer) chips offer the greatest amount of encryption and are the most difficult Apple devices so far to access when locked. These iOS devices are encrypted with 256bit AES encryption at the hardware level. The encryption key is stored between the flash memory and system area on the iOS device. This area of is referred to as "effaceable storage." Hardware level encryption important because resulting extractions will only allow viewing of the file system and metadata, while leaving file contents unreadable due to encryption.

Basically, iPhones from 4S onwards employ a hardware encryption module which sits in between the flash memory and the system block, in a similar style to the Trusted Platform Module approach, which they call DPAPI- meaning all three components have to be physically pared. Remove one component from that set and it's as good as wiped; of course there are ways of subverting this via the bootloader or through a cold-boot attack, but successive generations have incrementally "phased out" most of these attack vectors.

 

Also:

 

Additionally, most logical files stored on the user partition of the disk are protected by a per-file encryption called Data Protection. This means that if we were able to get a dump of the data from the phone via chip-off or JTAG techniques (either of which could be destructive to the device) the contents of the files would still be encrypted.

So, even if you defeat the hardware encryption and access the filesystem, all the individual files on that system have additionally been encrypted using a key-generating algorithm derived from the hardware encryption module...which you've just ripped out and killed, and therefore can't get the seed key from.

 

I know for a fact you *used* to be able to circumvent the encryption on iPhones by physically detaching the Flash memory from the chip, but not since they started doing what is basically full-disk encryption using a hardware key and then individual file encryption on top of that.

 

It's a bit outdated (only going up to iOS 8 and iPhone 4), but a good primer on how it all works here:

http://www.darthnull.org/2014/10/06/ios-encryption

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That article still doesn't explain why they don't just physically pull the memory off the circuit board and it free of Apple's software and motherboard.

It does, actually:

The Apple A5 (and newer) chips offer the greatest amount of encryption and are the most difficult Apple devices so far to access when locked. These iOS devices are encrypted with 256bit AES encryption at the hardware level. The encryption key is stored between the flash memory and system area on the iOS device. This area of is referred to as "effaceable storage." Hardware level encryption important because resulting extractions will only allow viewing of the file system and metadata, while leaving file contents unreadable due to encryption.

Basically, iPhones from 4S onwards employ a hardware encryption module which sits in between the flash memory and the system block, in a similar style to the Trusted Platform Module approach, which they call DPAPI- meaning all three components have to be physically pared. Remove one component from that set and it's as good as wiped; of course there are ways of subverting this via the bootloader or through a cold-boot attack, but successive generations have incrementally "phased out" most of these attack vectors.Also:

Additionally, most logical files stored on the user partition of the disk are protected by a per-file encryption called Data Protection. This means that if we were able to get a dump of the data from the phone via chip-off or JTAG techniques (either of which could be destructive to the device) the contents of the files would still be encrypted.

So, even if you defeat the hardware encryption and access the filesystem, all the individual files on that system have additionally been encrypted using a key-generating algorithm derived from the hardware encryption module...which you've just ripped out and killed, and therefore can't get the seed key from.I know for a fact you *used* to be able to circumvent the encryption on iPhones by physically detaching the Flash memory from the chip, but not since they started doing what is basically full-disk encryption using a hardware key and then individual file encryption on top of that.It's a bit outdated (only going up to iOS 8 and iPhone 4), but a good primer on how it all works here:http://www.darthnull.org/2014/10/06/ios-encryption

So it will wipe the data if removed or just leave it encrypted?

 

People are talking about this key as if you are doomed without it. AES functions the same way regardless if implementation, so Apple's fancy key derivation gets turned into a 256 bit key in the end.

 

Why can't they get access to the raw AES data and brute force the actual encryption key? Granted they couldn't check the hash to confirm, but there's got to be some other form of plain data they could expect to find to let them know they got it.

 

With Apple's key derivation taking 80ms a try, I am guessing any brute forcing on the encryption will have to bypass that anyway, and brute forcing raw keys might actually be faster.

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So it will wipe the data if removed or just leave it encrypted?

No, it'll just sit there on a hardware-encrypted filesystem with lots of individual encrypted files.

 

 

People are talking about this key as if you are doomed without it.

You are doomed without it. All the encryption on the device- the hardware encryption used to secure the filesystem and decrypt on boot, and the encryption of the individual files on that system, is done with keys derived from the original AES key. Attacking it as a solution is pretty much exactly the same as attacking hardware encryption on, say, an SSD- you either need a side-channel attack, to obtain the key from memory via something like a cold-boot attack, or a firmware rootkit. And the latter normally needs the drive to be decrypted in order to be installed in the first place (well, unless it's placed there before the drive is encrypted such as via the supply chain).

 

 

AES functions the same way regardless if implementation, so Apple's fancy key derivation gets turned into a 256 bit key in the end.

The algorithm functions the same regardless of implementation, but the actual implementation of the cryptography is currently the only feasible attack vector against AES of any size, and varies dramatically. Security vendors have successfully decrypted files encrypted by Ransomware using 256-bit AES keys because the sh*tty implementation of the cryptography (like here), but without a known side-channel you're basically stuffed. Several theoretical attacks exist which are hypothetically faster than brute-forcing, but they're all still computationally infeasible. Hence, all the attacks made against AES in the past have been based on implementation.

 

 

Why can't they get access to the raw AES data and brute force the actual encryption key?

Because brute-forcing AES is currently impossible. Assuming access to the Fujitsu K (10.5 PetaFLOPS) and assuming a very optimistic 1,000 FLOPs per combination check, it would take slightly more than one billion billion (IE one quintillion) years to brute-force a 128-bit AES key. Even with the combined power of the ten most powerful supercomputers on earth, you've only managed to reduce that to one hundred quadrillion years.

 

 

brute forcing raw keys might actually be faster.

It would be, but when it takes all the computing power of the entire earth several orders of magnitude longer than the universe has existed to brute-force a single AES-128 key, it's kind of a moot point.
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Interesting article. I just find it hard to believe that Apple didn't develop any contingencies with it's latest forms of iOS. Isn't that their job? What happens if a user accidentally erases their data? I'm sure this has happened before, so don't you think Apple would have thought about it prior?

 

And even if they were to develop an exploit, if you were to consider that almost every version of iOS prior to 9 and it's hardware counterparts all have vulnerabilities, including the 5S, then why not admit some wrongdoing in withholding the information and patch these vulnerabilities with future hardware models and software? After all, isn't that the perpetual climb to perfection, that every new iteration of the device secures the previous vulnerabilities?

 

And now, given the technical details, it only seems to further substantiate the claim that this is merely a publicity stunt. Right?

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I just find it hard to believe that Apple didn't develop any contingencies with it's latest forms of iOS.

Why would they want to? The implementation of encryption in all recent Apple and Android phones has been intentionally designed to ensure that the OS and hardware vendors have no way of unlocking a device. It's part of their reaction to the surveillance disclosures and a pretty public attempt to show their customer base they are doing what they can to keep their data private.

 

 

What happens if a user accidentally erases their data?

You restore a backup from the iCloud, which you can because you've still got the password to the phone and can therefore bypass the device encryption, and by association also decrypt the images stored on the Apple backup servers. It's a process designed to pretty much entirely take Apple out of the loop- the backups they hold are all encrypted with the key generated on the individual phone, so they don't have the ability to decrypt them.

 

 

And even if they were to develop an exploit, if you were to consider that almost every version of iOS prior to 9 and it's hardware counterparts all have vulnerabilities, including the 5S, then why not admit some wrongdoing

Typically, vulnerabilities are not intentional. The iterative increase in security from one generation to the next is mirrored pretty much everywhere else in the tech sector. If you've got Android M, you've probably got full-disk hardware encryption too. I have no doubts that there are ways of exploiting and therefore bypassing the implementation of encryption in iOS9 and in the latest physical handsets, but there aren't any known ways of doing so and assuming law enforcement don't have access to an exploit of some kind which isn't public, they're going to have to create one which is massively expensive and time-consuming.
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Why would they want to? The implementation of encryption in all recent Apple and Android phones has been intentionally designed to ensure that the OS and hardware vendors have no way of unlocking a device. It's part of their reaction to the surveillance disclosures and a pretty public attempt to show their customer base they are doing what they can to keep their data private.

 

So in a nutshell, I'd call that a publicity stunt, regardless of which company that may be; it's healthy competition in the name of public trust, but bullsh*t nonetheless.

 

Typically, vulnerabilities are not intentional. The iterative increase in security from one generation to the next is mirrored pretty much everywhere else in the tech sector. If you've got Android M, you've probably got full-disk hardware encryption too. I have no doubts that there are ways of exploiting and therefore bypassing the implementation of encryption in iOS9 and in the latest physical handsets, but there aren't any known ways of doing so and assuming law enforcement don't have access to an exploit of some kind which isn't public, they're going to have to create one which is massively expensive and time-consuming.

 

And that's why I think Apple needs to provide some options. I'm all gung-ho on the 4th Amendment, but Gates is right when he says this is akin to the exigent circumstances of acquiring a warrant for any legal investigation, whether that be bank account information or phone bills/wire-tapped conversations. Given this is such a technical matter, however, as to whether there is any reasonable and objective expectation of privacy, phone data remains questionable under the Fourth.

 

So, acquire a warrant, they said, and instead of saying, 'we'll look into it,' Tim Cook writes a blog post like an edgy 16 year kid with emoticons. Who knows, maybe the Supreme Court will finally get a case that defines the privacy of phone data, but until then, the investigation will be hampered by Apple's unwillingness to help.

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