Apple iOS encryption battle could escalate to the Supreme Court

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Date: Friday, February 19th, 2016, 07:48
Category: iOS, iPhone, Legal, News, security

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Apple’s cryptography fight could go all the way to the tippy top.

Following tim Cook’s reply to the court order instructing the company to assist the FBI in breaking into an iPhone left any room for doubt about Apple’s determination to fight the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, that doubt appears to be removed by further background emerging today.

It’s been reported that Apple plans to press ahead with plans to increase its use of strong encryption.

Cook has since told colleagues that he plans to stand by Apple’s current encryption policies.


It’s also been noted that Apple had asked the FBI to make its court application under seal – meaning that the legal arguments could be heard in private, albeit the FBI chose to make this public.

This adds to suspicions that the FBI has deliberately chosen a high profile test-case likely to generate public sympathy for its position.

Interestingly enough, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has also weighed-in on the side of the company he co-founded, stated that Apple’s reputation is built on the trust of its customers:

I believe that Apple’s brand recognition and value and profits is largely based on an item called trust. Trust means you believe somebody. You believe you’re buying a phone with encryption.

You can’t trust who is in power. It’s like believing the authority and police wherever they go. Generally, when they write the rules, they’re right when they’re wrong.

Woz also said he believed Steve Jobs would have made the same decision as Tim Cook to fight the court order, and that “the word ‘terrorism’ has been used way too often to scare people.”

The FBI has called on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who had previously claimed that Apple’s use of strong encryption meant that iPhones would be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice.” Vance said that the case “the most visible example of how Silicon Valley’s decisions are thwarting criminal investigations and impeding public safety,” and that his office is planning to bring cases of its own before a NY court.

Since the start of this controversy, it’s been cited that Apple has previously unlocked as many as 70 iPhone for law enforcement agencies. This has been corrected and Apple has extracted data from iPhones running iOS 7 or earlier.

Apple also assisted the FBI in the San Bernardino case, cooperating with earlier court orders requiring it to hand over unencrypted data from iCloud backups of the phone in question. (Those backups are incomplete, which is why the FBI wants access to the phone itself.)

Finally, tech security mogul John McAfee, who’s currently running for President on the Libertarian party ticket, has offered the following:

So here is my offer to the FBI. I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team. We will primarily use social engineering, and it will take us three weeks. If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.

If you doubt my credentials, Google “cybersecurity legend” and see whose name is the only name that appears in the first 10 results out of more than a quarter of a million.

McAfee offered no specific details as to how this would be accomplished.

Apple has until February 26th to prepare its response to the court order.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Via 9to5Mac and the New York Times

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