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Paul Merrell

FBI's secret method of unlocking iPhone may never reach Apple | Reuters - 0 views

  • The FBI may be allowed to withhold information about how it broke into an iPhone belonging to a gunman in the December San Bernardino shootings, despite a U.S. government policy of disclosing technology security flaws discovered by federal agencies. Under the U.S. vulnerabilities equities process, the government is supposed to err in favor of disclosing security issues so companies can devise fixes to protect data. The policy has exceptions for law enforcement, and there are no hard rules about when and how it must be applied.Apple Inc has said it would like the government to share how it cracked the iPhone security protections. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been frustrated by its inability to access data on encrypted phones belonging to criminal suspects, might prefer to keep secret the technique it used to gain access to gunman Syed Farook's phone. The referee is likely to be a White House group formed during the Obama administration to review computer security flaws discovered by federal agencies and decide whether they should be disclosed.
  • Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the NSA and now a lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson, said the review process could be complicated if the cracking method is considered proprietary by the third party that assisted the FBI.Several security researchers have pointed to the Israel-based mobile forensics firm Cellebrite as the likely third party that helped the FBI. That company has repeatedly declined comment.
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    The article is wide of the mark, based on analysis of Executive Branch policy rather than the governing law such as the Freedom of Information Act. And I still find it somewhat ludicrous that a third party with knowledge of the defect could succeed in convincing a court that knowledge of a defect in a company's product is trade-secret proprietary information. "Your honor, my client has discovered a way to break into Mr. Tim Cook's house without a key to his house. That is a valuable trade secret that this Court must keep Mr. Cook from learning." Pow! The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a crime to access a computer that can connect to the Internet by exploiting a software bug. 
Paul Merrell

This Is the Real Reason Apple Is Fighting the FBI | TIME - 0 views

  • The first thing to understand about Apple’s latest fight with the FBI—over a court order to help unlock the deceased San Bernardino shooter’s phone—is that it has very little to do with the San Bernardino shooter’s phone. It’s not even, really, the latest round of the Crypto Wars—the long running debate about how law enforcement and intelligence agencies can adapt to the growing ubiquity of uncrackable encryption tools. Rather, it’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments. It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.
  • Considered in isolation, the request seems fairly benign: If it were merely a question of whether to unlock a single device—even one unlikely to contain much essential evidence—there would probably be little enough harm in complying. The reason Apple CEO Tim Cook has pledged to fight a court’s order to assist the bureau is that he understands the danger of the underlying legal precedent the FBI is seeking to establish. Four important pieces of context are necessary to see the trouble with the Apple order.
Paul Merrell

F.B.I. Director to Call 'Dark' Devices a Hindrance to Crime Solving in a Policy Speech ... - 0 views

  • In his first major policy speech as director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey on Thursday plans to wade deeper into the debate between law enforcement agencies and technology companies about new programs intended to protect personal information on communication devices.Mr. Comey will say that encryption technologies used on these devices, like the new iPhone, have become so sophisticated that crimes will go unsolved because law enforcement officers will not be able to get information from them, according to a senior F.B.I. official who provided a preview of the speech.The speech was prompted, in part, by the new encryption technology on the iPhone 6, which was released last month. The phone encrypts emails, photos and contacts, thwarting intelligence and law enforcement agencies, like the National Security Agency and F.B.I., from gaining access to it, even if they have court approval.
  • The F.B.I. has long had concerns about devices “going dark” — when technology becomes so sophisticated that the authorities cannot gain access. But now, Mr. Comey said he believes that the new encryption technology has evolved to the point that it will adversely affect crime solving.He will say in the speech that these new programs will most severely affect state and local law enforcement agencies, because they are the ones who most often investigate crimes like kidnappings and robberies in which getting information from electronic devices in a timely manner is essential to solving the crime.
  • They also do not have the resources that are available to the F.B.I. and other federal intelligence and law enforcement authorities in order to get around the programs.Mr. Comey will cite examples of crimes that the authorities were able to solve because they gained access to a phone.“He is going to call for a discussion on this issue and ask whether this is the path we want to go down,” said the senior F.B.I. official. “He is not going to accuse the companies of designing the technologies to prevent the F.B.I. from accessing them. But, he will say that this is a negative byproduct and we need to work together to fix it.”
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  • Mr. Comey is scheduled to give the speech — titled “Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy and Public Safety on a Collision Course?” — at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
  • In the interview that aired on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Mr. Comey said that “the notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law troubles me a lot.”He said that it was the equivalent of selling cars with trunks that could never be opened, even with a court order.“The notion that people have devices, again, that with court orders, based on a showing of probable cause in a case involving kidnapping or child exploitation or terrorism, we could never open that phone?” he said. “My sense is that we've gone too far when we've gone there.”
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    I'm informed that Comey will also call for legislation outlawing communication by whispering because of technical difficulties in law enforcement monitoring of such communications. 
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