Tag - Department of Justice
While the San Bernardino "FBI vs Apple" case may have been dropped, the repercussions of both the FBI's initial aggression in the case, and its ultimate actions there, have had ripple effects; both on the national debate over encryption and privacy, as well as in other court cases where the agency -- along with the US Department of Justice -- continue to try and force Apple to disable or compromise its security. In a new filing arguing in favor of a Brooklyn court ruling that Apple was not obligated to crack its own iPhones, Apple points to the San Bernardino case in arguing that the agency has not "exhausted" all avenues, a key requirement of the All Writs Act the FBI is trying to use to force Apple to cooperate.
Recently-revealed court documents show that -- in three similar court cases where the US government was attempting to decrypt seized iPhones by seeking to force Apple's compliance using the All Writs Act -- the score at present is win, lose, and draw. A court in Brooklyn flat-out rejected the US Department of Justice's appeal to force Apple to weaken its security, though the government is appealing the decision. In San Bernardino, the FBI won an initial order, but later retreated from the case; and it turns out that in the Boston gang-activity case, the judge did order Apple to assist the FBI -- but specifically excluded decrypting the suspect's iPhone contents, or developing a way to decrypt, from being part of the order.
Apple has confirmed reports that it will not sue the FBI in an effort to get the agency to reveal the method it used to crack into the San Bernardino iPhone 5c, saying whatever method the FBI ended up using will have "a short shelf life," as the company has made significant improvements to security in later iPhones and operating system updates, and users upgrade their iPhones routinely. In a related case brought by the US Department of Justice in New York, however, Apple may require the FBI to reveal the method in order for the agency to prove in court that its claim that the hack doesn't work on newer iPhones is true.
Those who might think the battle between the FBI, US Department of Justice, and Apple over privacy and security is over -- because the FBI withdrew its case on a claim that it found another way into a seized iPhone -- are wrong. Indeed, this battle has only just begun, and the public -- at least those who paid attention to this fiasco and understand the implications of it -- are taking up arms in the form of even-more secure apps, switching over to iOS from other platforms, and generally amping up their personal security as much as possible. Governments are going to hate it, but they only have themselves to blame.
[Update: government has now filed for withdrawal from the case] Ahead of the required April 5 progress report, USA Today is reporting that the FBI and US Department of Justice will withdraw its legal action against Apple, in which it was seeking to use the All Writs Act to compel Apple's assistance in hacking into a work-issued iPhone 5c given to San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook. An unnamed official said that the method of bypassing the security features preventing the agency from "cracking" the device's security has been successful, and the agency has now officially filed to withdraw from the action.
Following the vacating of an evidentiary hearing in the Apple-FBI encryption fight in San Bernardino, the iPhone maker is asking the judge in a similar case it is fighting against the US Department of Justice in Brooklyn, New York for a delay. Apple says the new developments in the FBI case -- where the agency now claims it may have found a way to "crack" a seized work iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino workplace massacre gunmen -- could materially affect the Brooklyn case.
If FBI Director James Comey did himself and his agency a great public good by striking a conciliatory tone about the FBI's dispute with Apple under oath at the recent congressional hearings, recent filings and public comments by the Department of Justice -- in particular, it's latest brief with the court, which ratcheted up the accusatory rhetoric, going as far as to question Apple's patriotism -- has not only undone that goodwill, it may have set any resolution back catastrophically. In a cover story for Time magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook echoed his SVP and General Counsel Bruce Sewell, saying he was "deeply offended" by the recent filing.
While the politicians and American public remain divided on the difficult question of the balance between individual privacy and national security, an increasing number of security professionals -- including the current secretary of defense, counter-terrorism officials, former CIA and NSA leader, and other experts -- are siding with Apple on the importance of encryption, increasingly painting the FBI and Department of Justice as lone wolves who are inadvertently trying to wreck an important line of security defense.
Apple is not the only tech company that the Department of Justice is attacking over encryption, as prosecutors are setting their sites on WhatsApp, according to a report. It is claimed government officials are in discussions over how to deal with a wiretap order for a criminal case that applies to the Facebook-owned service, one that cannot be easily implemented due to WhatsApp's use of encryption to protect both messages and voice calls made over the Internet.
Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Sewell has commented on the government's formal response to Apple's brief in the San Bernardino case, where the FBI has demanded that the All Writs Act be used to compel Apple to develop software that will help the agency decrypt a work-issued iPhone 5c used by one of the gunmen in the December 2 workplace massacre. Sewell said that the harshly-worded response has "thrown all decorum to the winds," and that the Department of Justice's insinuations about Apple's motivations are "demeaning."