Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Apple Resist Court Order to Decrypt iPhone

The US Justice Department has an order – signed by a magistrate judge in Riverside, California – to compel Apple to mine data from an iPhone used by gunman Syed Rizwan Farook who was involved in a murderous shooting rampage in San Bernardino on December 02, 2015 that saw fourteen people dead and twenty-two injured.
Apple are resisting and they are fighting the order, claiming it threatens the privacy of everyone who uses a smartphone.
In case, you’re thinking Apple are not cooperating – that is simply not true. When the FBI requested data that’s in the company’s possession, they provided it. Apple complied with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as in the case involving Farook. They also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and even suggested ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.
But as the investigation proceeded, the FBI demanded that Apple do more than provide technical assistance. The agency wanted Apple to create a fake iOS update and sent it to Farook's iPhone, fooling the device into accepting a software package that would allow the agents to bypass the password protecting the encryption.
Apple called that what it is  a backdoor and refused.
The case revolves around the use of encryption in smartphones and whether or not government agencies can compel the companies such as Apple and Google which write the encryption software for mobile devices to circumvent the encryption.
And we know that encryption is necessary because users can protect their data from surveillance by overreaching government agencies, data-mining by nosy companies, and theft by hackers.
Already, in this digital age, we do nearly everything on our computers and mobile devices. We talk, text, email, and use video chat. We manage our businesses, do banking transactions, shop, and pay our bills. We manage our social media accounts and search for information. So when there is encryption available, we can do all these things with privacy and security.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook says: “Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going. All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data”.
Cook explained that in today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.
The government may have suggested this tool would be used once, on one phone. But, as Cook pointed out, that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.
In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.
While “no reasonable person would find that acceptable,” the FBI, the Justice Department, and Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California seem to think it makes perfect sense. In their unbalanced view of security versus liberty, they make us believe they can promise security, but you and I know, that often, they fail to deliver on that promise.
There is more at stake here than the outcome of one investigation. The privacy of millions around the world will be determined by how this case turns out.
And that is the heart of this encryption issue. Can anybody, anywhere be trusted?
On Monday, I was at the Subang Jaya Medical Center (formerly known as Sime Darby Healthcare) in Jalan SS12/1A, Subang Jaya to attend the SJMC-Summit Toastmasters joint meeting.

I evaluated a Summit Toastmaster’s “Vocal Variety” speech and also had the opportunity to deliver my CC#1 – my thirty-fourth round – titled “Victor Ong”. A good speech, if I say so myself.

And I had my “lou sang” (also “yee sang”) at the meeting too! Very timely. After all, yesterday was the last day of the Lunar New Year. Thanks to SJMC Toastmasters Club president Wong Keng Lan for arranging this “prosperity tossing”.


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