Apple Vs FBI a Battle they Might Lose
Apple said Wednesday it was strengthening encryption on its iPhones to thwart police efforts to unlock handsets without legitimate authorization, a battle it may well lose.
The move by Apple, the latest in an ongoing clash with law enforcement, comes amid reports of growing use of a tool known as GrayKey which can enable police to bypass iPhone security features.
In condradiction of what has said, Apple also said the new features are not designed to frustrate law enforcement but prevent any bypassing of encryption by good or bad actors.
“At Apple, we put the customer at the center of everything we design,” the company said in a statement.
“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.” After saying that is what they do in fact do.
Apple said it was working a fix to mitigate the possibility of accessing data from GrayKey or similar tools.
Apple said that it has a team that responds to law enforcement and national security requests 24 hours a day. But the company has been a target of some in law enforcement for rejecting efforts to allow easy access to iPhones.
Two years ago, Apple went to court to block an FBI effort to force it to weaken iPhone encryption on the device of a mass shooter in San Bernardino, California, but officials dropped the case after finding a tool to unlock the phone.
The FBI–Apple encryption dispute concerns whether and to what extent courts in the United States can compel manufacturers to assist in unlocking cell phones whose data are cryptographically protected. There is much debate over public access to strong encryption.
In 2015 and 2016, Apple Inc. has received and objected to or challenged at least 11 orders issued by United States district courts under the All Writs Act of 1789. Most of these seek to compel Apple “to use its existing capabilities to extract data like contacts, photos and calls from locked iPhones running on operating systems iOS 7 and older” in order to assist in criminal investigations and prosecutions. A few requests, however, involve phones with more extensive security protections, which Apple has no current ability to break. These orders would compel Apple to write new software that would let the government bypass these devices’ security and unlock the phones.
The most well-known instance of the latter category was a February 2016 court case in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The FBI wanted Apple to create and electronically sign new software that would enable the FBI to unlock a work-issued iPhone 5C it recovered from one of the shooters who, in a December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people and injured 22. The two attackers later died in a shootout with police, having first destroyed their personal phones. The work phone was recovered intact but was locked with a four-digit password and was set to eliminate all its data after ten failed password attempts. Apple declined to create the software, and a hearing was scheduled for March 22. However, a day before the hearing was supposed to happen, the government obtained a delay, saying they had found a third party able to assist in unlocking the iPhone and, on March 28, it announced that the FBI had unlocked the iPhone and withdrew its request.
In another case in Brooklyn, a magistrate judge ruled that the All Writs Act could not be used to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone. The government appealed the ruling, but then dropped the case on April 22 after it was given the correct passcode.