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Leaked Memo Says Apple Provides Backdoor To Governments 582

Posted by timothy
from the well-we-know-att-does dept.
Voline writes "In a tweet early this morning, cybersecurity researcher Christopher Soghoian pointed to an internal memo of India's Military Intelligence that has been liberated by hackers and posted on the Net. The memo suggests that, "in exchange for the Indian market presence" mobile device manufacturers, including RIM, Nokia, and Apple (collectively defined in the document as "RINOA") have agreed to provide backdoor access on their devices. The Indian government then "utilized backdoors provided by RINOA" to intercept internal emails of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a U.S. government body with a mandate to monitor, investigate and report to Congress on 'the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship' between the U.S. and China. Manan Kakkar, an Indian blogger for ZDNet, has also picked up the story and writes that it may be the fruits of an earlier hack of Symantec. If Apple is providing governments with a backdoor to iOS, can we assume that they have also done so with Mac OS X?"
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Leaked Memo Says Apple Provides Backdoor To Governments

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  • How Not to be Seen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Sunday January 08, 2012 @06:57AM (#38628398)
    The next time you text "i hacked my xbox!" to your friend, expect federal prison for life.

    It's all a big setup. The Patriot Act lets them investigate anything, anywhere, without a warrant. Now they are on your devices. Now any terrorist loses his rights as an American. The next war is at civil. No wonder the troops are coming back home.
    • by fred911 (83970) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:17AM (#38628448)

      PGP... it's way past time. Clinton was trying to mandate forced escrow keys for strong encryption years ago, first warning. Now, you can't place your trust in anyone but yourself to protect your privacy.

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:17AM (#38628678)

        PGP... it's way past time.

        Yeah that will work if they are reading your keystrokes.

        • by swalve (1980968) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:31AM (#38628746)
          There will be a decoder ring to encode keystrokes.
          • by HAKdragon (193605) <[hakdragon] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:06AM (#38629676)

            Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine.

    • by loufoque (1400831) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:34AM (#38628516)

      The next time you text "i hacked my xbox!" to your friend, expect federal prison for life.

      Hacking stuff you own is perfectly legal.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:38AM (#38628544)

        You must be new around here..

      • by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:05AM (#38628628)

        What does legality have to do with it?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by loufoque (1400831)

          You only get thrown into federal prison for doing illegal things.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:25AM (#38628710)

            Everyone has done something illegal. They might not know it and it might not have been immoral. As long as you can monitor everything they do you can find a reason to send them to jail if they start to express 'undesirable' opinions.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:50AM (#38629146)

              Everyone has done something illegal. They might not know it and it might not have been immoral. As long as you can monitor everything they do you can find a reason to send them to jail if they start to express 'undesirable' opinions.

              I can be more specific. All programmers violate patent law every time they code, whether they release their code or not.

              question:
              How is it we've accepted a set of laws that guarantee we'll be lawbreakers subject to enormous civil fines and seizure and what can we do?

              answer: publicly funded elections.

              puzzler: explain the answer

              • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:37AM (#38629912)

                Question: We've given way too much power to the government and we are about to be trapped in a dystopian police state. What can we do to stop it before tos too late?

                Answer: Give the government control over campaign finance as well.

                Puzzler: Why do I have a bad feeling about this?

                • by Stiletto (12066) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:15PM (#38630252)

                  I don't like either, but while we still have elections, I'd rather have government power than corporate power. At least with the government you can vote them out. You can't vote a company out of existence.

                • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @05:38PM (#38632460)
                  Question: We've given way too much power to corporations and the government, and are about to be trapped in a fascist police state (where corporate and state power join... see SOPA et al for references). What can we do to welcome it with open arms?

                  Answer: Fight among ourselves, either choosing the corporate side (because in the libertarian fantasy world where govts have no regulatory power, bullies do step in and do what they want), or the government side (where the government has a police state to smash immigration, protests, etc).

                  Better Answer: Let's unite over what really matters: A system of government where votes count, money doesn't buy elections or politicians, and "we the people" actually do run the country. That means campaign finance reform. It means overturning Citizens United. It means getting rid of the electoral college. It means dumping primaries and instituting instant run-off voting. So we end up with a single national popular vote, with instant-run-off, no states getting to go first, and no vast sums of money polluting the discourse and purchasing politicians. That is what we fight for.
              • by hacksoncode (239847) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @04:54PM (#38632146)
                Just one point. Violating "patent law" isn't a criminal offense, it's a civil tort (IANAL, but deal with patents a lot). The government can't come get you and throw you in jail for that one (to any greater degree than they can, of course, do it without any reason whatsoever).
                • by vux984 (928602) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @06:21PM (#38632764)

                  Just one point. Violating "patent law" isn't a criminal offense

                  Perhaps not; its worse, it makes me suspect you are a terrorist.

                  And that's way better than a criminal offense... as a criminal you still have rights... as terrorist suspect... you don't.

                  Aha... I saw you roll your eyes at this post... and then I felt a bit queasy... so you are cleary a witch too...

            • by joocemann (1273720) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:33AM (#38629862)

              In this case, Apple was aiding and abetting foreign intelligence services collecting against the US. Thats illegal.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:46AM (#38628816)

            You only get thrown into federal prison for doing illegal things.

            But innocent people have nothing to hide!

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:53AM (#38628850)

            You only get thrown into federal prison for doing illegal things, in america, if your outside america you get drugs, stuck in nappies and an orange jumpsuit, abducted, flown to a foreign state know for torture, held and tortured then released in another country on the side of the road. all for having a name as come as Smith in the arab world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalid_El-Masri

            And that was a citizen of a member of nato.

          • by boorack (1345877) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:01AM (#38628886)

            Go read NDAA, shamelessly passed by Senate (both parties) and shamelessly signed by Obama little more than a week ago. It allows for indefinite military detention of people your lovely govt. calls "terrorists" without charges and without recourse to a court of law as they're free to ignore court orders. With NDAA passed, US is now officialy a police state of kind it used to install in some many Latin countries in the past. You can kiss your freedoms goodbye as your constitution now has been teared down along with all its amendments.

            I doubt US millitary will use it to full extent at first as it would be a major PR disaster, but as time passes and popular anger at corporations/government grows you'll see more and more of people in jail just refusing to do that our corporate overlords want.

            • by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:16AM (#38628962)

              This is what I so dislike about President Obama. He's not even a good liberal. This is the kind of thing I would Expect from the Bush administration.

              • by joebagodonuts (561066) <cmkrnl@@@gmail...com> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#38629162) Homepage Journal
                Obama is Dubya V2.0. The folks who thought he was liberal got pwned.
                • by t0qer (230538) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @02:41PM (#38631228) Homepage Journal

                  2 weeks after my wife and I bought our house in 2001, I was laid off. After 3 months of searching 9/11 happened, and the shit really hit the fan. Silicon Valley for a time looked like a ghost town. Moving trucks were moving east (getting the fuck out of dodge so to speak)

                  A year later I wound up getting a crappy job at a bar. 10 years later I'm still here, working on my own software that runs certain aspects of the bar (very profitably I might add) When we bought our house in 2001 interest rates were sky high, and the wife and I thought our futures in tech were pretty secured. I think we were at 10% interest. We refinanced twice over the 10 years trying to keep payments down so we could stay in our house.

                  In the last 2 years the ARM on our loan got so high we were paying over $1600@mo for the new interest charges alone. We were virtually on the brink of losing our house. Then the "Obama Affordable home" plan was passed. Bank of America didn't make it easy. My wife had to call them every single day for a year. (like calling your AT&T subcontractor when your T1 goes down) At one point they denied us because "We couldn't verify your identity" (one of the loan modders wrote my social security number down wrong)

                  Despite what you might think of Obama.. He's just doing the best he can. He's no Bill Clinton, but having to clean up after GWB can't be easy. He stopped the banks from bending over hardworking people. Osama was killed during his term. Troops are withdrawing from Iraq.

                • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @03:37PM (#38631584) Journal

                  Obama is Dubya V2.0. The folks who thought he was liberal got pwned.

                  The folks who thought Dubya was conservative got pwned too. Obama wants to sell us out to big government, Dubya was sold us out to big bussiness, somebody else is just as eager to sell up out to big religion; the only thing that stays the same is we get sold out to something big.

                • by artor3 (1344997) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @03:40PM (#38631604)

                  So let's see, in the past three years we've gotten:

                  *Health care extended to millions of people who wouldn't otherwise have it
                  *Honesty about how much the War on Terror is costing by putting it in the budget, rather than hiding it as Bush did
                  *Laws stopping credit card companies from abusing their customers through short notice due date changes and excessive default rates
                  *Limitations on outrageous fees charged to retailers by the card companies
                  *A Network Neutrality law (albeit not on mobile networks, but there are good technical reasons why wireless networks can't be as unfettered as wired ones)
                  *An end to the stop loss program wherein soldiers were forced to stay beyond what they signed up for
                  *Fixes to the abortion that was No Child Left Behind (e.g. funding it, helping low scoring school instead of punishing them, etc.)
                  *The Ledbetter Law, pushing back against a conservative SCOTUS ruling that made it virtually impossible for women and minorities to sue over pay discrimination
                  *An end to torture and extraordinary rendition
                  *An end to DADT, and no support for DOMA (he can't end it unilaterally, but he's refusing to defend it in court)
                  *A new START treaty to reduce the number of nukes in the world

                  Had it not been for Republican filibusters, we also would have gotten:
                  *EFCA, helping to fight back against the corporate driven destruction of unions
                  *Cap & Trade, a free market solution to global warming
                  *Public option health care, allowing people to buy health insurance direct from the government rather than a for-profit company
                  *The DREAM act, allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship through college or military service

                  That's just what's coming to mind right now. I'm sure there's a bunch of small stuff I've forgotten. Now, how many of those things would be supported by the GOP? Maybe the New START treaty, but I doubt it, and certainly none of the others.

                  Claiming that Obama is "Dubya 2.0" makes for a nice sound bite, but it is blatantly false. This whole myopic claim that Republicans and Democrats are the same is just an excuse for the lazy who don't want to be bothered trying to make a difference in the world, and prefer to just shrug off the whole system while hoping for a magic solution that will never come.

              • by Insightfill (554828) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:20AM (#38629276) Homepage

                This is what I so dislike about President Obama. He's not even a good liberal. This is the kind of thing I would Expect from the Bush administration.

                While I don't like all of his decisions, everyone got "pwned" (to quote a sibling post) on this one.

                Since it was packaged in the defense budget, nobody wanted to be seen as 'bad on military' in an election year. So: It ran through House and Senate with a veto-proof majority. Obama could have either taken a stand on this and had it go through anyway (with the headlines in October reading "He hates our troops") or signed it and gotten painted with "He hates our citizens."

                Oddly, the House and Senate, which wrote and passed this POS, seem not to be hit with the same brush.

              • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:25AM (#38629328)

                Bush, Obama, Romney.

                It no longer matters who you vote for, they are all owned.
                 

            • by artor3 (1344997) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @03:10PM (#38631406)

              Please, please, PLEASE stop spreading this lie. We can't run a country based on false information.

              The NDAA is a military spending bill. It gets passed every year. For several years it has allowed the military to detain members of Al Qaeda, and no one had a problem with this. In the latest version, this was expanded to cover members of other terrorists organizations, but it still states that it cannot be applied to United States citizens or immigrants.

              I know that doom and gloom is fun. It gets the blood pumping, and being outraged squirts some feel good chemicals into your brain. But stop spreading lies, and go read the damn thing. Claiming that the US is now a police state is the sort of lie I'd expect from Glen Beck; no different from claiming that the government subsidizing people meeting with their doctor to learn about Do Not Resuscitate orders is equivalent to the Holocaust.

              • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @06:13PM (#38632704)

                Please, please, PLEASE stop spreading this lie. We can't run a country based on false information.

                The NDAA is a military spending bill. It gets passed every year. For several years it has allowed the military to detain members of Al Qaeda, and no one had a problem with this. In the latest version, this was expanded to cover members of other terrorists organizations, but it still states that it cannot be applied to United States citizens or immigrants.

                What Section 1021, subsection (e), of H.R. 1540 as enrolled [loc.gov] says is

                Authorities- Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

                which doesn't explicitly say it cannot be applied to US citizens etc.. The question is what "existing law or authorities" say. Senator Carl Levin quoted the Supreme Court as saying "There is no bar to this nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant." [csmonitor.com], which comes from the O'Connor/Rehnquist/Kennedy/Breyer opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld [supremecourt.gov]. On the other hand, they also say "It is a clearly established principle of the law of war that detention may last no longer than active hostilities.", but if active hostilities continue until we've defeated "those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons" [gpo.gov], who knows when they'll cease.

              • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:25PM (#38633626) Journal

                According to Wikipedia, the text of the bill allows to detain anyone "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners ... without trial, until the end of the hostilities". That's pretty damn broad, especially the part without trial - it essentially leaves the definition of "substantially supporting" at the discretion of the executive.

                Furthermore, there was to be a specific amendment to the wording this year that would clearly spell out that the above is not ever applicable to U.S. citizens. That amendment got thrown out. The wording as it stands is ambiguous on whether it permits indefinite detaining without trial of U.S. citizens or not; what matters is that Obama administration has already explicitly stated that they believe it to be permitted, so that's how they are going to operate. That is a police state, indeed, even if it will not apply in practice to most American citizens.

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:54AM (#38629576) Homepage Journal

            Oh, yeah? [wikipedia.org] You get thrown in prison for being convicted of a felony whether you committed the crime or not.

      • by indytx (825419) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:02AM (#38628894)

        Hacking stuff you own is perfectly legal.

        It is until the government makes it illegal. The number of federal crimes has ballooned from around 3,000 in the 1980s to an estimated 4,500 today. wsj.com [wsj.com] The Feds seem to make all kinds of things illegal today, so I wouldn't hang my hat on whether it's illegal or not. Where would one even look? Have you ever seen the United States Code? It's a nightmare. New bills that come up for a vote that amend an existing statute, for instance to add a crime to an existing statute, don't republish the whole statute, the bill shows the changes to the statute, and they show that they add a sub-paragraph here or remove a word there. It's really very difficult to figure out what's going on, even for our legislators.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:08AM (#38628418)

    I'm not a huge open source guru. I have nothing against it and I use open source software all the time. But I'm not a zealot on the subject. Still... this is unacceptable. If I buy a bit of software from apple or microsoft, it has to be understood that I control the security. I bought the OS. I bought the machine. I own that license. if they're going behind my back to sell my security to a third party... then I consider that a breach of contract and I'm really not amused.

    If this is valid... and it hasn't been confirmed yet... then anyone that signed that agreement is untrustworthy.

    Nothing else to say on the matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unless you've personally verified every single line of code in the OS, you're not really better off. You've just hoping that others have verified every single line of code, and unless you've verified that they're all trustworthy, you're just hoping that's true, too.

      ...and in case anyone's thinking this is an astroturf troll, I use Linux, not Windows or Mac. I've exclusively used Linux for 11 years now.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:33AM (#38628514)

        Well, you're slightly better off. Unless you expect a global conspiracy where every person who ever read the code and would talk about it has been bought or silenced.

        The key is that it's heaps harder to slip a backdoor into OSS simply because far more people can (and do) examine it. The chance that someone finds it and reports it is simply by some margin higher.

      • by MadKeithV (102058) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:56AM (#38628604)

        Unless you've personally verified every single line of code in the OS, you're not really better off.

        Even if you do, you're not sure. Your compiler may be compromised. See: Reflections on trusting trust. [cmu.edu]

        • by amiga3D (567632)

          This is borderline FUD. Yes it's possible to poison the code but with a proprietary closed system it's damn near certain you're backdoored. If for nothing else than for the company who sells the software to keep tabs on it. It's in their best interests not to sell you out because loss of credibility means loss of revenue but if the stakes are high enough they can be persuaded. For this reason it's not a problem for the average Joe usually but if you have anything you want kept secure and the stakes are

          • Even if a backdoor is discovered, there's no guarantee that credibility will be lost... A smart backdoor would look like a bug and could easily be explained away as such... Exploitable security holes are commonplace, who's to say some of them weren't originally designed as backdoors?

            • A smart backdoor would look like a bug and could easily be explained away as such...

              Tee hee. A while ago, one of the hacker sites had a competition to see who could hide a "backdoor" -- the idea was to take an image in a script compatible form (all the numbers were in text, rather than in binaries), black out a certain region (think redaction), and still have some way to have the redacted area be recoverable when the right inputs were given.

              The catch? The code would be given a peer review, so you had to come up with something that would pass most attempts at oversight.

              A lot of people tried to hide stuff in "error detection" routines.

              The winning code had no bugs of any kind. It did perfect redaction of the specified area. No flaws, no errors, nothing to be spotted in code review.

              Except for one oddball usage of fetching and writing individual characters -- getc() and putc(). The author explained that as an attempt to make sure that no matter what was in the input data, no matter how messed up the graphics were in an attempt to break the code, it would not have any overruns, no undefined behavior, etc.

              Result? The "black" would be written out as "0", "00", or "000", depending on the light level of the source. For all three color channels.

              Absolutely unnoticeable when viewed on a viewer. There was no hidden alpha channel, no slight alternation between black-0 and black-1, etc.

              Yet you could still recover readable text, almost perfect pictures, etc.

              Security hole back door? Very doable.

      • by timholman (71886) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:42AM (#38628808)

        Unless you've personally verified every single line of code in the OS, you're not really better off. You're just hoping that others have verified every single line of code, and unless you've verified that they're all trustworthy, you're just hoping that's true, too.

        Exactly. Even the open source community is built on a massive foundation of blind trust, because perhaps one user in a hundred thousand will actually look at the source. Otherwise, no matter if it's open or closed, the average user says, "That looks neat, I'm gonna install that".

        A personal anecdote: my open source theft recovery package for Macs has several thousand users. All of the source (with comments) is bundled with the installer, yet I often get questions from users about what the program does "under the hood", when they could easily learn the answer themselves by reading the source code.

        The overwhelming majority of users seem to like open source because it's free, not because it is theoretically more secure. I might have been collecting private information from the users of my program for the past three years, and I often wonder if a single one of them would have bothered to check the source in all that time.

        The best attack vector for any malware is incredibly simple: bundle it into something useful, and then give it away. You can guarantee that some people will install it (for the same reason they'll pick up and use a "lost" USB memory stick), because it is human nature to want to take advantage of something that is freely given.

        • While most people cannot, or will not read the source code... It only takes one of them to read it and find a backdoor, and then tell the world.

          If your really paranoid, you can read the code yourself or find someone you trust to do it for you. Personally i'd much rather trust a friend, or someone who is working explicitly *for me* than a company which has the primary goal of making profit at any expense.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:24AM (#38628480) Journal
      You know, your argumented and reasonable stance on this problem is what led many "open source zealots" like me into their present situation. In a functional legal environment you could use proprietary software and assume that such a breach of confidence would have so serious consequences for the companies involved that no one would dare to take the risk to put a backdoor in their software or to even make it possible. This is not however the case, this affair is one of many (CarrierIQ, Echelon, illegal-later-legalized wiretapping, Bluecoat, Amesys, etc...) and the only cure seems to use open source everywhere a backdoor could exist. And that means, mostly, everywhere.

      Anyway, I like how you present it : "I'm not an open source zealot, I'm merely an opponent to secret backdoors"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kikuchi (1709032)

      If I buy a bit of software from apple or microsoft, it has to be understood that I control the security. I bought the OS. I bought the machine. I own that license.

      HaHaHaHaHa, HoHoHoHoHo, HaHa, Hoooo....

      Eh, turn your keyboard around, gullible is written under it.

    • I bought the OS. I bought the machine.

      Technically, while you bought the hardware, you did not buy the OS.

      With the machine, you've got the right to do whatever you please with. (Modify, lease ...) Not so with the OS you believe you purchased.

      Typically with proprietary software, you only buy a license to use it as-is, and you are not even entitled to study how it works, or even look for backdoors.

      IMHO, this is the major problem with proprietary software, and an outrage that such agreements have any legal stance in a free-market society.

    • Nothing has to be understood, you didn't buy the software you are renting it and the license agreement says so... It also says that you have no comeback against the company providing it. If you didn't like those terms, then you shouldn't have accepted them.

      Companies exist to make profit, its only logical that they would sell you (a small fry) out to a large government willing to pay a lot more money and open up a potentially huge market to them. This is what companies do, welcome to capitalism.

    • by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:23AM (#38629014)

      To everyone that's telling "oh you didn't buy it, you licensed it!" or "But you clicked OK on the EULA!" or any variation on that theme. I'm pretty confident I could effortlessly sue the silly pants off any company that did this to me... especially if I could show damages in court. What jury is going to sit there and say "oh, he clicked OK on the EULA..." From a legal standpoint, EULAs are almost worthless against consumers and I even question how effective they are against corporations. There are different legal standards here. A big corporation for example has a legal obligation to actually read everything to the last line and appreciate what all the various legal terms mean. One person that has no special legal knowledge can't be reasonably expected to sign such things.

      The basis of legal contracts is that BOTH sides know, understand, and agree to the contract. If it can be demonstrated that either side could not be expected to reasonably know, understand, or agree to everything in a contract then the contract is invalid.

      For example, if a blind man signs a 500 pages legal contract it's almost certainly invalid. To make such a contract valid there would have be documentation that made it clear throughout that the man read or understood the contract. That might mean having a notary read it and occasionally inital segments of the contract to signify that given portions had been communicated. Or it might mean giving the man a copy of the contract in braille or something.

      The problem with EULAs is that no one reads them and worse no one can really be expected to read them. How many EULAs do you see in a day? I see about three on average and I think I've only read about two of them... and that was because I was bored.

      EULAs mostly exist not to restrain consumers because they can't reasonably be applied to them. They exist to restrain other corporations who also use the software. Because other corporations don't have this protection. It's one of the big differences legally between small and large organizations. Small groups generally are given a lot of legal slack. Big companies have to make a point of dotting every i and crossing every t. They have to read all these EULAs. And while I bet they don't even do it, they would have a much harder time making the same legal argument in court that they simply don't have the reasonable expectation of reading or understanding such documents.

      If Microsoft or Google did something that meant thousands of credit card numbers were stolen. Something where you could show damages. There is no EULA that would defend them. They'd get their silly pants sued off if it could be demonstrated that it was their fault.

      Now if it was an issue of malware or something then they can probably successfully argue that end users have a responsibility to secure their systems and MS or Google didn't steal the numbers in any case or intentionally make them available. However, if MS and google intentionally used backdoors to get such information or sold the keys to those back doors to a third party that then used them to get the information. THEN those companies would be screwed sideways.

      If the twentieth paragraph in the EULA says "oh by the way, we reserve the right to let third parties pilfer your data at will" it wouldn't stand in court.

  • by Tangential (266113) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:09AM (#38628424) Homepage
    Is there any reason to believe that governments wouldn't put pressure on all OS vendors, telecom providers, etc that wanted to sell into their countries to do something like that? I'd be very surprised if very many cellphones so in the USA don't have a way in for the Feds.

    At the same time, if you are concerned about the possibility of backdoors, it's awfully easy to bury one in deep in some standard hardware component that user space processes and most of the OS don't normally interract with. Since most of our cellphones and PCs (and GPSs and media boxes and cameras and ...) originate in China, what are the odds that they are not all compromised?
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:29AM (#38628500)
      I doubt many cellphones in the USA have backdoors for the government. Why would they need to, when the FBI, CIA and NSA all have access to direct fiber taps into the network backbone and presumably have been given the keys to go along with it? Backdoors in phones might be detected, but just getting the carriers to cooperate in permitting decryption and monitoring of network traffic is much safer - plus it lets them intercept the traffic of travelers who bring a phone purchased outside the US too.
      • by Niten (201835) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:36AM (#38629892)

        For Android phones with the Market app installed, an explicit backdoor isn't even necessary. Application installation is performed by the user requesting something from the Market, and the Market subsequently "pushing" the application to the device by sending an install command through Google's XMPP-based notification service. The installation itself does not require any interaction from the user. This is why, for example, you can install an app on your phone from the Android Market web site.

        Well guess what, this means that Google, or anyone who can leverage control over them, doesn't need a backdoor already on your phone. The government could just use the Market's normal installation mechanisms to install SpyOnStuff.apk over the air on an as-needed basis.

  • Awesome headline. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:14AM (#38628438)

    How RIM, Nokia and Apple becomes just Apple is beyond me. Magic?

  • by Jazari (2006634) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:18AM (#38628456)
    The only way to be reasonably sure of security is by using open source encryption (TrueCrypt, PGP). If you're only using a "black box" system to protect your information, you should expect that governments (and crime syndicates who can bribe individual government employees) will have access to your information.

    What's surprising is that anyone with secrets worth protecting doesn't already know this, or hasn't already hired someone competent enough to tell them this.
  • News from a twit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slasho81 (455509) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:19AM (#38628458)
    This smells of bullshit. Now a tweet and a few images are considered legit news? Couldn't just one journalist or blogger pick up the phone and get the "RINOA" comment on the matter? Or is it just easier to post conspiracy-laden speculation ending with a giant question mark?
  • Seriously, guys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muecksteiner (102093) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:35AM (#38628520)

    How can anyone be so naive to assume that any system that is commercially produced in large numbers these days does *not* have in-built backdoors for the alphabet soup agencies? Living under a rock much, are we?

    Same goes for Google, Facebook and all the rest. If you, even for one second, assume that the three letter agencies do not have permanent liaison staff at the HQs of these companies, and are not free to browse the data accumulated by these companies at will (including specially built data mining apps that cater for their needs, and their needs alone), you are seriously deluded.

    Sorry to put it this bluntly, but reality can be a bit harsh at times.

    The only real question is what to do about this status quo, and whether it is both possible, or realistic, to ever change it. All things considering, our society is arguably (still) the most free society on the planet. "They" are listening to everything, which is most definitely not the way it should be. But then, "they" have also not been hugely disruptive of discourse within society so far - mainly, I would wager, because "they" are mostly fairly normal citizens who work for the *** agencies. In particular, "they" are not a pampered, segregated elite of any sort, e.g. like the IT minions of the investment banking crooks^H^H^H^H^H^Hcrowd, or the secret service bastards of the former communist countries (who enjoyed considerable privileges beyond what normal citizens ever got). Rather, due to the never-too-stellar payment schemes of government services, the people in charge of all this are, by and large, fairly normal people. Most of them, at least. To quite some degree, I would wager that we can fairly safely count on that sort of people not being all too willing to cooperate in the creation of an actively evil 1984-ish state (as opposed to the passively listening one we have at the moment).

    This is not to say that these developments are in any way positive. Nor is it to say that we should just roll over, and stop fighting developments like that. No way. We need to sharpen our instincts for (as it were) "digital freedom" much, much more. But as a part of this, we also need to be realistic about the status quo. Which is currently... odd: theoretically fairly evil, but in practice, apparently still fairly manageable.

    Just my 0.2$

    A.

  • Treason or not? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Saphati (698453) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:36AM (#38628532) Homepage
    If a person were to help another government gain access to confidential data, it would be called treason. If APPLE or Nokia does it, it is OK? Can someone please explain that?
  • Who'd have thought? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:39AM (#38628554) Homepage

    The shiny backdoors the US government was so keen on to spy on its own citizens are also used by foreign governments to spy on the US government. Maybe security and privacy is worth something after all.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:48AM (#38628582)

    And face it, the worst is not the possible surveillance by the ones that originally placed this. These people did invest significantly to place and hide the backdoor. They will use information gained from it only sparingly, to protect the source. After all, if they are caught possessing information that they can only have gotten this way, the backdoor becomes worthless.

    IMO the real problem is if the backdoor can be used by others that do not have to protect their investment or respect laws (however flimsy). For an example of surveillance software made by people without much of a clue about security, look to the German "Bundestrojaner", recently analyzed by the CCC. Severe flaws include no authentication or encryption on data transfer, a hard-coded AES key that seems to be the same in all instances used for command transfer (still no authentication), and data-transfer via a foreign server (which is likely illegal). In addition, these cretins are of course not liable if somebody uses their backdoor and likely will not even notice.

    Same old story: For a few temporary small benefits, people are willing to accept enormous potential damage. That is my personal definition of evil.

    On the protection side: Use reputed open-source. There is at least some chance that somebody will notice a backdoor and that the person will not be easy to silence. And once somebody has found such a problem, anybody can verify it. Not so with closed-source. There it would be a lot more difficult to find anything, and then to get taken seriously as others cannot easily verify a finding. Some postings here already demonstrate that problem. In addition, use restrictive firewall settings and encryption. Difficult to do in a mobile setting, I know, so as a last measure, do not trust any device not under your own system-administration. In particular, do not trust any mobile phone or similar system. You may also want to add markers to any document you do put on potentially backdoored devices, so you can identify the source. This last step also helps against insiders leaking data.

    Of course, if your secrets are transient and not worth risking the backdoor for (even fore a 3rd party user of said backdoor), then you are probably reasonably secure. This should apply to most people for private use.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @07:52AM (#38628594)

    Nothing new here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawful_interception [wikipedia.org]

    You may not like that, but that's the way it is. Communications providers can be forced to provide back doors for "legal spying" by governments. All governments know this, and use other methods to protect "sensitive" communications. Any other stuff is, well, who cares?

  • "Liberated"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbraescu1 (180267) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @08:09AM (#38628644) Homepage

    an internal memo of India's Military Intelligence that has been liberated by hackers

    Let's set the record straight: that memo was stolen.

  • Manning v. Apple? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:53AM (#38629172) Homepage

    Bradley Manning provided access to U.S. government secrets to everyone, because (or ostensibly because) the U.S. government was not duly informing the United States Citizens of the military's actions in their name.

    Apple(*) provided access to U.S. government secrets to a foreign national government, because they wanted that foreign national government to give them quid pro quo access to a lucrative market.

    Seems pretty clear Apple will be facing more severe charges than Bradley Manning, right? ... Or, at least, it's going to be in the same ballpark, right? ... Well, OK, at least, same kind of national debate, where questions of treason get raised, right? ... No? ... OK, then, well, umm, WTF?!?

    * Note: RIM and Nokia are foreign -- an interesting angle to consider, but not as similar to Manning as Apple.

    • by decora (1710862) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:54AM (#38629574) Journal

      the two situations are not exactly the same. Manning is accused of giving information about the national defense to other parties. it would be very hard to argue that apple did that. they just gave instructions to India about how to backdoor their phones.

      now the more accurate analogy would not be Bradley Manning, it would be the 'Cambridge Associates' who went under Grand Jury investigation in 2011 regarding their alleged assistance to Wikileaks (and are still under investigation). They are charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage. 18 USC 793 g.

      now, the other law i think applies here would be the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. why? the Espionage Act only applies to 'national defense information'. but the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has its own sort of 'mini-espionage-act' inside of it... that applies to not just national defense information, but also "foreign relations" information. This is the only reason Manning could be sued on so many counts of violating the CFAA, for example the Reyjkavic 13 memo about Icelandic Bank Fraud - thats under the CFAA.

      what you have here against Apple, could, theoretically, be Conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, section (1) I believe is the Computer Espionage section.

      --

      another analogy would be George Hotz + FailOverflow, who published information about how to jailbreak the playstation 3. They were sued by Sony - but that was in civil court, not in criminal court. the DOJ never went after Hotz.

  • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:25AM (#38629320)

    Why do you think it's so easy for spies to steal your cell phone data? You see it on shows like Chuck and 24 all the time! Spies all have a magical device that plugs into any cell phone and downloads all the data in exactly as long as it takes for the phone's owner to almost get back from the bathroom, giving them just enough time to put it back where it belongs.

    How could they do that if Apple (i.e. every evil phone maker) wasn't providing them with a back door?

    That's why I always carry a dummy phone with decoy data on it while my bluetooth headset is secretly connected to my real phone, which is hidden in my shoe!

  • Reality check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joh (27088) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @01:08PM (#38630580)

    There was a time when efficient encryption was considered a weapon and could not be exported from the US. This was given up later.

    Looking back this was just logical. The point is that controlling what code is being exported is very hard and anyway coming up with good encryption is not that hard anyway. But once you have devices everywhere that can use end-to-end encryption of communications very easily and cheaply, everyone can use that and encrypted communication is basically out of control.

    The only halfway practical way to deal with this is: Just allow all of this but make sure that you get access to the devices at a point BEFORE any encryption takes place (and after decryption).

    I don't like the very idea, but on the other hand I really can't imagine any state or government to accept safe encryption in communications being the norm with no way to listen in. Democracy or not, but ubiquitous encrypted communication for everyone (including criminals, terrorists, whoever) is something that is impossible to accept for any government that sees controlling and policing as part of the job description.

The ideal voice for radio may be defined as showing no substance, no sex, no owner, and a message of importance for every housewife. -- Harry V. Wade

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