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Tag: encryption

FBI Can’t Access 13% of Password-Protected Cell Phones Because of Encryption

cellphone-tower-photo2By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Password-protected cellphones have become a big problem for the FBI.

Since Oct. 1, the bureau has been unable to unlock 13% of the password-protected phones that were part of an investigation, a top bureau official told a House panel Tuesday.

Investigators are having a tougher time than ever cracking into phones since data encryption has become stronger, the USA Today reports. 

“Clearly, that presents us with a challenge,” Amy Hess, executive assistant director of the FBI’s science and technology branch, told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Congress is debating whether to pass legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement to bypass security features.

FBI Battled Encryption 13 Years Ago in Investigation of Animal Welfare Group

Data securityBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When the FBI was investigating an animal welfare group accused of sabotaging a company that tests drugs on animals in early 2003, agents hit began intercepting call and e-mails of the activists.

But agents couldn’t read the e-mail because of software.

The New York Times reports that the FBI persuaded a judge to let agents install a software to bypass encryption on the group’s computers.

“This was the first time that the Department of Justice had ever approved such an intercept of this type,” an F.B.I. agent wrote in a 2005 document summing up the case.

The encryption helped prosecutors convict six activists with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

The case is a precursor to the battle with Apple of encryption.

How the FBI Unlocked an iPhone without the Help of Apple

FBI headquarters

FBI headquarters

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When Apple refused to help the FBI open an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, the bureau sought help from experts worldwide.

They met with companies and hackers, but no one was able to bypass the security feature.

Then on March 20, a company came forward and demonstrated that they unlocked another iPhone. The FBI decided to give the San Bernardino phone a shot with the company this past weekend, ABC News reports. 

“The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored” on the phone, the Justice Department announced just days ago.

The FBI has declined to identify the company, saying they arrived at a “mutual agreement.”

The solution was “generated as a result of the media attention,” a source told ABC News.

Now forensic examiners are trying to gather evidence from the phone.

FBI Opens iPhone without the Help of Apple; Justice Department Withdraws Case

Apple logoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The federal government has successfully cracked the security function on an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists and officially withdrew its legal battle against Apple.

But the USA Today suggests the bigger battle over tech privacy “is just getting started,” citing observers in the industry.

“This lawsuit may be over, but the Constitutional and privacy questions it raised are not,” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who had criticized the Justice Department’s suit against Apple, said in a statement Monday.

An unidentified entity suggested a method to open the phone without erasing its contents, allowing the government to gain access to the phone.

Apple still defended its position that creating a backdoor for law enforcement would enable less scrupulous people from hacking into phones.

“This case should never have been brought,” Apple said in a statement released late Monday. “We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated. … This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy.”

Boston Globe: Apple’s Battle with FBI Is Not a Free Speech Issue

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

By Editorial Board
Boston Globe

Apple may have won widespread public sympathy in its showdown with the FBI, but some of its less publicized decisions in the case should raise alarms. As part of its legal campaign to resist an order to break into a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is quietly pushing a pro-corporate interpretation of the First Amendment that could do real damage to the government’s ability to regulate commerce and protect consumers.

A bit of background: After the terrorist massacre in San Bernardino last year, federal investigators were unable to access an iPhone that belonged to Syed Farook, one of the attackers. To overcome the phone’s security features, authorities ordered Apple to write new software that would allow the FBI to break into the phone. Apple says creating the code the FBI demands would weaken privacy protections for all iPhone users and has engaged in a war of words with the Justice Department over the government’s demand. The legal battle is now on hold as the FBI explores a possible workaround that might allow investigators to enter the phone without Apple’s help. But if that method fails, the case could soon heat up again.

Much of the company’s case rests on reasonable objections to the FBI’s interpretation of a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, which the government claims gives investigators the power to demand Apple help them. But Apple goes a step further, adding a misguided constitutional contention. That part of the company’s case goes like this: Complying with the FBI order would require it to write code. Computer code, courts have ruled in other cases, is a form of speech. Thus, the order amounts to a First Amendment violation.“The government seeks to compel Apple’s speech” in the form of code it objects to writing, the company said in a court filing.

But while Apple has a lot of good reasons to fight the FBI in the San Bernardino case, the First Amendment is not one of them.

To read more click here. 

FBI Director Comey: Fight with Apple Is Not about Setting Legal Precedent

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey insisted Wednesday that the case against Apple is not about setting a legal precedent to require tech companies to open encrypted software.

Comey said the case was only about Apple helping unlock a phone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, the USA Today reports.

“You are simply wrong to assert that the FBI and the Justice Department lied about our ability to access the San Bernardino killer’s phone,” Comey wrote in response to a Tuesday Wall Street Journal editorial. “I would have thought that you, as advocates of market forces, would realize the impact of the San Bernardino litigation.”

Comey said the case prompted “creative people around the world to see what they might be able to do” to solve the problem.

“And I’m not embarrassed to admit that all technical creativity does not reside in government,” the director said in a Wednesday letter to the newspaper. “Lots of folks came to us with ideas. It looks like one of those ideas may work and that is a very good thing, because the San Bernardino case was not about trying to send a message or set a precedent; it was and is about fully investigating a terrorist attack.”

The case involving Apple was postponed Wednesday after the FBI said it may have found a way to open the phone without the company’s help.

They are due back in court on April 5.

How Apple Set Off a Behind-the-Scenes Battle with FBI Over Encryption

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Soon after Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone’s latest mobile-operating system, iOS 8, in Jun 2014, the company gave the FBI early access to the technology.

The new system involved encryption that would make it impossible for the FBI and even Apple to gather information from a phone without a password.

The new encryption “set off a behind-the-scenes battle that ultimately spilled into the open last month” after a judge approved a Justice Department order to force Apple to help the FBI open a phone by one of the San Bernardino shooters, Bloomberg wrote in a lengthy piece about the long-simmering battle between law enforcement and the tech giant.

 “The reason the relationship went south is the government was expecting some degree of accommodation on the part of the technology companies,” said Timothy Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security Staff from 2009 to 2010. “They were expecting the companies to essentially back down and not go forward with new security measures that would make it impossible for you to access devices or communications. They were caught off guard by basically being told to get lost.”

Privacy advocates are worried that the Supreme Court or Congress could set a legal precedent that would require tech companies to unlock security features.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Alex Abdo, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech privacy and technology project, which has filed a brief supporting Apple. “This is an unprecedented legal question with extremely significant policy and technological implications.”

WhatsApp Poised to Become Subject of Next Justice Department Encryption Showdown

WhatsApp

WhatsApp

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Apple isn’t the only tech company fighting the FBI over privacy concerns.

The FBI is in court with WhatsApp, which allows users to send messages and make phone calls over the Internet, the New York Times reports.

The world’s largest mobile messaging service has added encryption that makes it impossible for the Justice Department to access, even when a judge orders a wiretap.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and the Justice Department declined to comment because the case is under seal. But it does not involve terrorism.

The Times wrote:

To understand the battle lines, consider this imperfect analogy from the predigital world: If the Apple dispute is akin to whether the F.B.I. can unlock your front door and search your house, the issue with WhatsApp is whether it can listen to your phone calls. In the era of encryption, neither question has a clear answer.