Apple can’t and won’t give governments back door into new iPhones

21 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Explains Why It’s ‘Impossible’ for It to Unlock Most of Its Devices at Law Enforcement Request.

Apple talks a big game about its commitment to customer privacy, but the words mean something. Apple’s comments were issued in response to the court asking the company on “whether the assistance the government seeks from Apple is technically feasible.” In this Sept. 11, 2013, file photo, an Apple employee, right, instructs a journalist on the use of the fingerprint scanner technology built into the company’s iPhone 5S during a media event in Beijing. (AP/Ng Han Guan) “For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests—take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted use data from that device for the government,” Apple stated. “Among the security features in iOS 8 is a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing the device’s encrypted data. A report on Reuters said that the statements came out in court papers during a case involving the US Department of Justice and its desperate need to access data on an iPhone that has been picked up as part of an investigation. It could, however, “extract certain categories of unencrypted data from a passcode locked iOS device” on these other 10 percent using older operating systems, which includes the phone involved in this case running iOS 7. “Whether the extraction can be performed successfully depends on the device itself, and whether it is in good working order,” Apple said. “As a general matter, however, certain user-generated active files on an iOS device that are contained in Apple’s native apps can be extracted. Apple’s response: “In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform.

Justice Department, which wants Apple to access the data on a locked phone — one that does fall into that 10% bracket — that the DOJ seized during an investigation. This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue.” The law the government is leaning on to obtain such data in this and other similar cases is the All Writs Act, a statute dating back to 1789. Since Apple’s help is still required for some of these methods, the question once again largely boils down to what law enforcement agencies can and cannot ask Apple to do in order to access an iPhone.

This prevents the company from offering services that its competitors do—like powerful photo analysis—because it actually can’t access your data. “We think encryption is a must in today’s world,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday during Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive technology conference. “No back door is a must.” Investigators are pursuing a back door into a specific iPhone, not all iPhones, though the request has broad implications. But if Apple in fact has this capacity, or if the government instead tried to require it to prospectively reengineer the operating system on an unlocked device, All Writs is not the means to do so. Most important, Apple’s choice to offer device encryption controlled entirely by the user is both entirely legal and in line with the expert consensus on security best practices.

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