Apple Inc. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been caught in the middle of a terrorism investigation involving Syed Rizwan Farook the suicide terrorist who killed fourteen at a center for the disabled in San Bernardino on the 2nd December, 2015.
After the shooting, the couple fled in a rented Vehicle. Four hours later, police pursued their vehicle and killed them in a shootout. On 3rd December 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened acounter-terrorism investigation. On December 6, 2015, President Barack Obama defined the shooting as an act of terrorism.
During investigation on this case in order to find out their intention and links to other terrorist groups, came in play SyedFarook’s IPhone 5C that was suspected to have been used for communication. Apple Companyis well known for providing encryption to all data stored in its gadgets in order to safeguard user information as a security measure and this is where Apple came into play with the FBI.
In an order dated 16 February 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym quoted that the government indicated the only method of hacking into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook was with Apple’s assistance hence asked Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators including building a ‘back-door’ for Government to bypass an auto-erase function that gets activated when the wrong pin or password is entered for a fixed number of times, allow FBI to submit unlimited passcodes via a computer, a programme or whatever protocol they determine and ensure that the Apple software doesn’t purposely add any additional delay between password attempts to unlock the device.
In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook makes it clear that the company won’t be compliant with what it calls an ‘unprecedented’ order. CEO Tim Cook letter titled “A Message to Our Customers” says the government’s demand and the order have “implications far beyond the legal case at hand”. Cook says the order basically tells engineers who’ve worked to ensure that the device is secure and encrypted, must now work to weaken those same protections. This according to Cook allows FBI a backdoor entry into the iPhone, sets a dangerous precedent and puts consumer data at risk from hackers and cyber criminals. It was clear that Apple was not about to provide access to the investigation and Government.
Various players in the industry including Microsoft, AVG, Facebook and hundreds more backed up Apple’s decision to protect user information however noted that there is need for a mechanism to balance between privacy and security
FBI hacks into terrorist’s iPhone without Apple
The FBI said on Monday 28th March 2016 that with the help of a third party it has found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple and has successfully accessed data on a phone used by a terrorist in December’s attack in San Bernardino-California, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.
It said it no longer needs Apple’s assistance in unlocking the iPhone 5C used by Syed Farook, and it has asked Riverside, California-based US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to vacate her order compelling Apple to assist in the case.
The Apple-FBI Battle Is Over, But the New Crypto Wars (security Vs privacy) Have Just Begun
The move by FBI ends the legal battle between Apple and the FBI in this particular case, but it doesn’t end the overarching battle about Nationalsecurityandprivacy which one should be priority. There are hundreds of other iPhones that law enforcement agencies around the country want unlocked, opening Apple to potential litigation across the world. And the government’s success at accessing data on the iPhone also raises some concerns about the security of Apple’s devices and the boundaries of the law enforcement has been questioned.
FBI Director James Comey is fighting claims the government lied about its inability to unlock the work-issued iPhone 5C used by the gunman in the San Bernardino terrorist attack without Apple’s help but said that “it remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails. We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.”
Apple wants the FBI to reveal how it hacked the San Bernardino killer’s iPhone
Apple Inc. refused to give the FBI software the agency desperately wanted. Now Apple is the one that needs the FBI’s assistance.Law enforcement’s ability to now unlock an iPhone through an alternative method raises new uncertainties, including questions about the strength of security in Apple devices. The development also creates potential for new conflicts between the government and Apple about the method used to open the device and whether that technique will be disclosed.
Lawyers for Apple have previously said the company would want to know the procedure used to crack open the smartphone, yet the government might classify the method.
The agency has shown no interest in telling Apple how it skirted the phone’s security features, leaving the tech giant guessing about a vulnerability that could compromise millions of devices.
“One way or another, Apple needs to figure out the details,” said Justin Olsson, product counsel at security software maker AVG Technologies. “The responsible thing for the government to do is privately disclose the vulnerability to Apple so they can continue hardening security on their devices.”
But that’s not how it’s playing out so far. The situation illuminates a process that usually takes place in secret, Governments regularly develop or purchase hacking techniques for law enforcement and counter terrorism efforts and put them to use without telling affected companies.
Questions still unanswered
- National security and Privacy, which is a priority to the people
- Do other tech players have the guts to stand out and protect consumers? Considering Microsoft handing over a terrorist details to the French government in November 2015.
- Is Apple’s reputation at any risk?
By Oboth Andrew (Network Administrator)