Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

More Links About the Apple-FBI Story

Spencer Ackerman and Danny Yadron, reporting for the Guardian:

The FBI accused Apple of prioritizing its public relations strategy over a terrorism investigation on Friday in a significant escalation of this week’s war between the tech company and the law enforcement agency. […]

“Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order, despite the technical feasibility of doing so, instead appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in the Friday filing.

Katie Benner and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times:

Apple had asked the F.B.I. to issue its application for the tool under seal. But the government made it public, prompting Mr. Cook to go into bunker mode to draft a response, according to people privy to the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The result was the letter that Mr. Cook signed on Tuesday, where he argued that it set a “dangerous precedent” for a company to be forced to build tools for the government that weaken security.

Apple asked for a private discussion and the FBI made it public. And now they’re accusing Apple of treating it as a PR move. Outrageous.

Security researcher and forensic scientist Jonathan Zdziarski:

Not only is Apple being ordered to compromise their own devices; they’re being ordered to give that golden key to the government, in a very roundabout sneaky way. What FBI has requested will inevitably force Apple’s methods out into the open, where they can be ingested by government agencies looking to do the same thing. They will also be exposed to private forensics companies, who are notorious for reverse engineering and stealing other people’s intellectual property. Should Apple comply in providing a tool, it will inevitably end up abused and in the wrong hands.

Finally, Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg:

Silicon Valley celebrated last fall when the White House revealed it would not seek legislation forcing technology makers to install “backdoors” in their software — secret listening posts where investigators could pierce the veil of secrecy on users’ encrypted data, from text messages to video chats. But while the companies may have thought that was the final word, in fact the government was working on a Plan B.

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.

High stakes.

Update: John Paczkowski:

Apple: Within 24 hours of govt taking possession of SB shooter’s phone, Apple ID pass was changed—backup may have been accessible prior

Be sure to read his report — it’s damning, and also revealing in how iCloud backups are supposedly encrypted:

The executives said the company had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a back door. One of those methods would have involved connecting the phone to a known wifi network.

This would have initiated an iCloud backup; however:

Apple sent engineers to try that method, the executives said, but the experts were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID password associated with the phone had been changed.

An astonishing mishandling of this case. And yet, notice that Apple says that they would have been able to recover the requested data had the iPhone been allowed to back up to iCloud.