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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

Apple could use Brooklyn case to pursue details about FBI iPhone hack: source | Reuters - 0 views

  • If the U.S. Department of Justice asks a New York court to force Apple Inc to unlock an iPhone, the technology company could push the government to reveal how it accessed the phone which belonged to a shooter in San Bernardino, a source familiar with the situation said.The Justice Department will disclose over the next two weeks whether it will continue with its bid to compel Apple to help access an iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case, according to a court filing on Tuesday.The Justice Department this week withdrew a similar request in California, saying it had succeeded in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in a rampage in San Bernardino in December without Apple's help.The legal dispute between the U.S. government and Apple has been a high-profile test of whether law enforcement should have access to encrypted phone data.
  • Apple, supported by most of the technology industry, says anything that helps authorities bypass security features will undermine security for all users. Government officials say that all kinds of criminal investigations will be crippled without access to phone data.Prosecutors have not said whether the San Bernardino technique would work for other seized iPhones, including the one at issue in Brooklyn. Should the Brooklyn case continue, Apple could pursue legal discovery that would potentially force the FBI to reveal what technique it used on the San Bernardino phone, the source said. A Justice Department representative did not have immediate comment.
Paul Merrell

Apple's New Challenge: Learning How the U.S. Cracked Its iPhone - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Now that the United States government has cracked open an iPhone that belonged to a gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting without Apple’s help, the tech company is under pressure to find and fix the flaw.But unlike other cases where security vulnerabilities have cropped up, Apple may face a higher set of hurdles in ferreting out and repairing the particular iPhone hole that the government hacked.The challenges start with the lack of information about the method that the law enforcement authorities, with the aid of a third party, used to break into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, an attacker in the San Bernardino rampage last year. Federal officials have refused to identify the person, or organization, who helped crack the device, and have declined to specify the procedure used to open the iPhone. Apple also cannot obtain the device to reverse-engineer the problem, the way it would in other hacking situations.
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    It would make a very interesting Freedom of Information Act case if Apple sued under that Act to force disclosure of the security hole iPhone product defect the FBI exploited. I know of no interpretation of the law enforcement FOIA exemption that would justify FBI disclosure of the information. It might be alleged that the information is the trade secret of the company that disclosed the defect and exploit to the the FBI, but there's a very strong argument that the fact that the information was shared with the FBI waived the trade secrecy claim. And the notion that government is entitled to collect product security defects and exploit them without informing the exploited product's company of the specific defect is extremely weak.  Were I Tim Cook, I would have already told my lawyers to get cracking on filing the FOIA request with the FBI to get the legal ball rolling. 
Paul Merrell

FBI Got Into San Bernardino Killer's iPhone Without Apple's Help - 0 views

  • AFTER MORE THAN a month of insisting that Apple weaken its security to help the FBI break into San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, the government has dropped its legal fight. “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple,” wrote attorneys for the Department of Justice on Monday evening. It’s not yet known if anything valuable was stored on the phone, however. “The FBI is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures,” said Department of Justice spokesperson Melanie Newman in a statement.
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

Cameron Calls June 23 EU Referendum as Cabinet Fractures - Bloomberg Business - 0 views

  • In a secret meeting convened by the White House around Thanksgiving, senior national security officials ordered agencies across the U.S. government to find ways to counter encryption software and gain access to the most heavily protected user data on the most secure consumer devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, the marquee product of one of America’s most valuable companies, according to two people familiar with the decision.The approach was formalized in a confidential National Security Council “decision memo,” tasking government agencies with developing encryption workarounds, estimating additional budgets and identifying laws that may need to be changed to counter what FBI Director James Comey calls the “going dark” problem: investigators being unable to access the contents of encrypted data stored on mobile devices or traveling across the Internet. Details of the memo reveal that, in private, the government was honing a sharper edge to its relationship with Silicon Valley alongside more public signs of rapprochement.
  • On Tuesday, the public got its first glimpse of what those efforts may look like when a federal judge ordered Apple to create a special tool for the FBI to bypass security protections on an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the shooters in the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California that killed 14 people. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has vowed to fight the order, calling it a “chilling” demand that Apple “hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers.” The order was not a direct outcome of the memo but is in line with the broader government strategy.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice have the Obama administration’s “full” support in the matter. The government is “not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to their products,” but rather are seeking entry “to this one device,” he said.
Paul Merrell

Upgrade Your iPhone Passcode to Defeat the FBI's Backdoor Strategy - 0 views

  • It’s true that ordering Apple to develop the backdoor will fundamentally undermine iPhone security, as Cook and other digital security advocates have argued. But it’s possible for individual iPhone users to protect themselves from government snooping by setting strong passcodes on their phones — passcodes the FBI would not be able to unlock even if it gets its iPhone backdoor. The technical details of how the iPhone encrypts data, and how the FBI might circumvent this protection, are complex and convoluted, and are being thoroughly explored elsewhere on the internet. What I’m going to focus on here is how ordinary iPhone users can protect themselves. The short version: If you’re worried about governments trying to access your phone, set your iPhone up with a random, 11-digit numeric passcode. What follows is an explanation of why that will protect you and how to actually do it.
Paul Merrell

Chinese State Media Declares iPhone a Threat To National Security - Slashdot - 0 views

  • "When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden came forth last year with U.S. government spying secrets, it didn't take long to realize that some of the information revealed could bring on serious repercussions — not just for the U.S. government, but also for U.S.-based companies. The latest to feel the hit? None other than Apple, and in a region the company has been working hard to increase market share: China. China, via state media, has today declared that Apple's iPhone is a threat to national security — all because of its thorough tracking capabilities. It has the ability to keep track of user locations, and to the country, this could potentially reveal "state secrets" somehow. It's being noted that the iPhone will continue to track the user to some extent even if the overall feature is disabled. China's iPhone ousting comes hot on the heels of Russia's industry and trade deeming AMD and Intel processors to be untrustworthy. The nation will instead be building its own ARM-based "Baikal" processor.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple security flaw could be a backdoor for the NSA - RT USA - 1 views

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    "Was the National Security Agency exploiting two just-discovered security flaws to hack into the iPhones and Apple computers of certain targets? Some skeptics are saying there is cause to be concerned about recent coincidences regarding the NSA and Apple"
Paul Merrell

Google Quietly Drops iPhone Optimized iGoogle Page - 0 views

  • I reported this morning at the Search Engine Roundtable that Google seems to have quietly dropped the iPhone version of the iGoogle page. The iPhone iGoogle page used to be at google.com/ig/i, but when iPhone users navigate to google.com/ig/i they are redirected to the standard mobile iGoogle page at google.com/m/ig. Google said the reason they dropped the iPhone version was because they “want to ensure you’ll all see the same version” of the iGoogle mobile page. But Google made no official announcement on this change.
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    Android's leader marches away from iPhone territory.
Gary Edwards

The Future of Mobile Software - RoughlyDrafted Magazine - 0 views

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    The software business is going mobile. That shift will present new challenges but also new opportunities for developers. Appleboy Daniel Eran Dilger explains how the mobile market has evolved into being today's promising next frontier for new software models. This is a good article even though it falls flat and short comparing "desktop-sync" to the emerging "cloud-sync" model. Cloud-sync is vital to workgroup oriented business processes. The problem with desktop-sync being that any kind of conversion-sync process took documents out of the application centric business process. It's a big issue begging for recognition, but given short shrift by Daniel. He also misses the all important role of the Web in the evolution of smartphones. Without 3G-4G Web wireless, there is no such thing as a "smartphone".
Paul Merrell

IPhone software developers stifled under Apple's gag order - Los Angeles Times - 0 views

  • The software development kit that Apple Inc. distributed to programmers bound them to not discuss the process of creating programs for the iPhone. Companies typically waive such legal restrictions once the product in question launches, but Apple didn't. And it won't say why.
  • As a result, iPhone developers -- and businesses that cater to them -- say they are prohibited from asking technical questions or sharing tips anywhere in public. On Apple's official support website, moderators remind visitors that they are bound by the nondisclosure agreement and should mind what they say or ask.
  • Conference organizers are trying to figure out how to plan sessions for iPhone software developers when they're not allowed to talk about iPhone software. Book publishers are sitting on how-to manuals, afraid that if they ship them Apple will sue.
Gary Edwards

The new UI wars: Why there's no Flash on iPhone 2.0 « counternotions - 0 views

  • - publishers of Flash apps have to port their apps to native Web apps if they want to run inside a Web browser going forward because the Web has moved off the PC, you can’t accessorize it with PC software anymore, WebKit is so small and light and cross-platform that it is the plug-in now, inside iPhone, iPod, Nokia, Android, iTunes and other Mac and Windows apps - publishers of Flash video have to deploy MPEG-4 H.264/AAC if they want to run inside an audio-video player (on any device) going forward, the decoder chips for this are already in EVERYTHING, from iPod to Blu-Ray to NVIDIA GPU’s Most of the world has already done both of the above, including Google and Apple. This is not the beginning of the end for Flash, it is the end of the end.
  • Notice he doesn’t say at all that Flash is running natively on the ARM CPU inside the iPhone. And once again, as I point out in the article above, technical problems may be solved by Adobe, but cross-platform runtime compatibility and multi-touch UI frameworks remain as serious impediments.
  • the direction Apple is taking in WebKit with canvas, downloadable fonts, SVG, CSS animation, CSS transformations, faster JavaScript, HTML5 audio/video embedding, exposure of multi-touch to JS and so on is precisely to create an open source alternative to the Flash runtime engine, without having to download a proprietary plugin:
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    this article takes the RiA discussion to an entirely new level - the battle between Apple, Adobe and Microsoft to control the future user interface (UI). Adobe Flash extends the aging WiMP model, trying to create a "UI Convergence" across many platforms through the Flash RiA. With iPhone, Apple introduces the patented "gestures UI", running off the WebKit RiA. Microsoft presumably is copying the Flash RiA with the XAML rich WPF Silverlight RiA. Unfortunately, counternotions doe snot cover Silverlight. This incredible discussion is limited to Adobe and Apple.
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