Interesting story from NYT today titled “Judge Tells Apple to Help Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone.”
Here is an excerpt:
The ruling handed the F.B.I. a potentially important victory in its long-running battle with Apple and other Silicon Valley companies over the government’s ability to get access to encrypted data in investigations. Apple has maintained that requiring it to provide the “keys” to its technology would compromise the security of the information of hundreds of millions of users.
The F.B.I. says that its experts have been unable to get into the iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering.
Prosecutors said in a court filing that Apple had the “exclusive” means to bypass the security features on the phone, but that the company “has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily.” F.B.I. experts say that because of the phone’s security features, they risk losing the data permanently after 10 failed attempts to enter the password.
The Justice Department had secured a search warrant for the phone, which is owned by Mr. Farook’s former employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. But prosecutors said they saw little choice but to seek the additional order compelling Apple’s assistance.
In an unusually detailed directive, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to the F.B.I. in unlocking the phone. That assistance should allow investigators to “bypass or erase the auto-erase function” on the phone, among other steps, she wrote.
A spokesman for Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.
Eileen M. Decker, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, where the investigation is being handled, said the effort to compel Apple’s technical cooperation marked “another step — a potentially important step — in the process of learning everything we possibly can about the attack in San Bernardino.”
James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, has been at odds with Apple and other technology companies for months over whether they should provide de-encryption technology for their products. Without it, he has argued, the bureau is at risk of “going dark” in its investigations. The Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and most of the Republican hopefuls support Mr. Comey’s stance.
Apple and other technology companies say that creating an opening in their products for government investigators would also create a vulnerability that Chinese, Iranian, Russian or North Korean hackers could exploit.
I wonder how this story would have been reported if it had been the Chinese government asking for Apple to access some ETIM (East Turkestan independence movement) or Dalai Lama terrorists? No doubt, there would have been universal condemnation against the Chinese oppression! Apple would have been goaded and lauded to stand up to such appalling government interference. There would have been vigils for all those who might be apprehended were the Chinese to get intelligence about collaborators.
But here it is the U.S., and the lime light is focused squarely on the bad guys and the dangers … or …. on the flip side an enlightened American company such as Apple fighting a good worthy fight. But ultimately both sides are deemed legitimate … with fears strewn, not surprisingly, on how Chinese might play the same game for their interests in the future…
This story shows clearly why some in China advocate developing its own cell phones and network equipment – as a matter of national security. If its market continues to be flooded with foreign equipment maintained by foreign companies unsympathetic to Chinese concerns for security, that condition is understandably of grave national concern … especially when the foreign companies has the means to cooperate … but choose to stonewall systematically Chinese concerns …
Whether Apple publicly agrees to cooperate with the US government is not the issue: the point is that Western companies will respond to and acknowledge Western concerns one way or another …. but not Chinese or any others’.