Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

U.S. Department of Justice Once Again Able to Extract iPhone Data Without Compromising Security of All Users

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to shame Apple for being unwilling to compromise the security of all users for the FBI’s convenience. This echoed a 2015 case where the FBI barely tried to extract data from the iPhone of a criminal suspect before trying to guilt trip Apple into weakening encryption.

Once again, it turns out that the FBI didn’t need Apple to compromise all users’ security and privacy. Sadie Gurman and Dustin Volz, Wall Street Journal:

A Saudi aviation student who killed three people on a Florida Navy base last year had extensive ties to al Qaeda, details that investigators were able to learn by accessing the gunman’s iPhones after months of delays, top U.S. law-enforcement officials said Monday, accusing Apple Inc. of providing virtually no help in the investigation.

The gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, had been communicating with a number of operatives of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for years, even before he began training with the U.S. military, officials said, a discovery that was made based on information recovered from his two locked iPhones.

I am glad that the FBI was able to make progress on this case without escalating an unnecessary public battle with Apple, specifically, over the use of encryption. I think we would all like a way to have both very strong encryption and a means for investigators to access device data when warranted, but no such method exists.

The only choice is whether it is better for everyone to have insecure devices that store credit cards, passwords, health information, and business data or having investigations delayed and some evidence effectively destroyed — the same as with countless other types of potential evidence. There are tradeoffs with both, but I know which I prefer.