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Encryption Cellphones Communications Handhelds Apple Your Rights Online

Why Are Apple's Competitors Staying Silent On the iPhone Unlocking Fight? 301

erier2003 writes: A court order forcing Apple to help the FBI access a terrorism suspect's iPhone has drawn responses from leading tech companies, newspaper editorial boards, and security experts. But one major faction is staying largely silent: the computer and smartphone manufacturers who compete with Apple for business and could be subject to similar orders in the future if the company loses its high-profile case. Silicon Valley software firms have universally backed Apple in its fight against the Justice Department, which won a ruling Tuesday from a California magistrate judge compelling Apple to design custom software to bypass security features on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. But Apple's hardware competitors are staying on the sidelines.
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Why Are Apple's Competitors Staying Silent On the iPhone Unlocking Fight?

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  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:25AM (#51547975)

    Finally we have a debate on whether or whether not the state should have access to people's personal data. This is what snowden wanted, his goal is reached.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:59AM (#51548069)

      I'm not sure what Snowden wants in cases like this, because it is about evidence collected after a crime was committed. It isn't terribly different from a court demanding paper documentation.

      The big concern, and the concern which ties into Snowden's revelations, is that US government agencies have proven untrustworthy. If Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. fulfill this presumably legitimate request, they may find themselves fulfilling requests for surveillance purposes or disclosing information that these agencies can use to engineer their own solutions for surveillance purposes.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @10:05AM (#51548083) Journal

        I'm not sure what Snowden wants in cases like this, because it is about evidence collected after a crime was committed. It isn't terribly different from a court demanding paper documentation.

        It's completely different. It's not about demanding paper documentation, it's about demanding that a company crack a code. The gov't can make me open my door, but they can't make me invent a new way of opening doors.

        • With all the rhetoric surrounding this case, I didn't learn a crucial fact until reading this CNN article [cnn.com] - It is not the shooter's phone!

          The phone belongs to his employer - the San Bernardino government. This is like a homeowner letting someone stay in his home, and the guest changes the locks. The guest then kills a bunch of people and himself. The homeowner wants to get back in and (clumsily) resets the lock so the old key won't work even if they managed to find it. They then ask the lock maker
          • This is absolutely the wrong case to fight that other fight, but this fight might be more important.

            That said, I don't really care what some hardware companies have to say. They might not even have a strong record as any sort of moral or legal authority. ;)

            The debate that matters here is the legal debate that lawyers are having. Congress is incapable of action on either side of this, and Joe Schmoe's opinion is irrelevant. And, most Schmoes don't understand the difference between opinions and analysis, or h

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2016 @10:32AM (#51548171)

        While it's a US only debate, it will still have long term repercussions. Apple won't be able to sell their phones abroad to governments or serious bizmen. Only as a toy phone, playing the latest and greatest Angry birds or Clash of clans.
        American hw and sw is already a hard sell outside of US.

        • Whatever happens to Apple here will impact everyone else, especially if it gets worded in law. Don't believe Android, Windows Phone et al. will be unimpacted by this. Other companies are staying silent because they probably don't want to get involved in something high profile until it really impacts them or that they know the any publicity on their part may backfire.

          • Whatever happens to Apple here will impact everyone else

            So assume that if they never jump in, they are already compromised.

            But if they're going to jump in, they won't do it now. Let Apple deal with the PR issues (which won't be entirely in their favor, a lot of people are terrified of terrorists and would gladly give their house keys to the government). If Google and MS are going to jump in, and i agree they pretty much have to if they are not already compromised, it will be when this hits the courts.

        • American hw and sw is already a hard sell outside of US.

          Export data begs to differ. ;)

          It turns out that pundits writing anti-American stuff in foreign media is not the same thing as lost sales. Who knew?! Oh, right, the marketing people. Turns out they did know something, even if it wasn't what the product features are. ;)

          Gosh, if it is so hard to sell American software and hardware, why is the demand so high? Oh, right, there are people who disagree with you even in your own country, but you pretend they don't exist. It might turn out, they even have money and

      • US government agencies are no more and no less trustworthy than those in other countries. The difference is that in the US, spying on citizens is actually illegal; the only way to search someone should be by court order. The reason you don't hear about such problems in Europe is because what the NSA did is by and large legal already in Europe in the first place.
        • It isn't in the UK otherwise David Cameron wouldn't be demanding that US companies weaken their encryption and threatening them with new laws if they don't comply. The European Convention on Human Rights isn't as strong as the US Constitution, but people still have plenty of rights and the state has to justify any violation of those rights in court.

          • It isn't in the UK otherwise David Cameron wouldn't be demanding that US companies weaken their encryption and threatening them with new laws if they don't comply.

            Think about what you're saying there. US companies have strong encryption, both in the US and the UK. And it is the UK government that demands that the US companies weaken their encryption for the UK market. What does that tell you?

            but people still have plenty of rights and the state has to justify any violation of those rights in court.

            No, t

    • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @01:05PM (#51548625)

      Finally we have a debate on whether or whether not the state should have access to people's personal data. This is what snowden wanted, his goal is reached.

      No, that's not what this is about at all. The government has a search warrant for this data. They have the right to get the data. Apple even handed over an iCloud backup based on a legal warrant. Apple has absolutely no problem with handing over data when the police comes with a valid search warrant.

      What Apple refuses to do is to break the security of their phones that they sell to millions of honest, hardworking citizens, honest but lazy citizens, dishonest citizens, politicians, lawyers, army personnel and so on and so on and so on, by creating software that they don't have right now, to access data that they cannot access right now.

      This is not about preventing the government from executing search warrants, it is about keeping customer data safe. Apple declares that your iCloud data is safe from hackers and criminals, even though Apple can access it, because all that data is under Apple's control and they don't let hackers and criminals near it. Apple also declars that your phone data is only safe if _nobody_, including Apple, can access that data, because your phone can get under total control of the hacker.

      As a side effect, Apple can deliver data stored on iCloud if they get a search warrant, but they can't deliver data stored on your phone. If Apple could deliver the data on the phone without creating a risk to the security of everyone, they would.

      • No, that's not what this is about at all. The government has a search warrant for this data.

        They also have permission from the phone's owner: the San Bernadino Health Department. It's important to recognize that this phone was Farook's work phone. There was never an expectation of privacy for this phone.

        • As the phone is owned by the San Bernadino Health Department, why are they rolling out phones to employees without any proper MDM solution in place that would allow them to, among other things, unlock the phone even if they don't know the user's PIN/passcode?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The problem with this case is that Apple can comply with a court order to help the FBI break into the phone. If they had not screwed up by allowing the Secure Enclave's auto-erase and rate limiting functions to be disabled, we could get to the real question: will companies be allowed to build truly unbreakable encryption?

      That's why everyone else is keeping quiet. Why risk saying something that affects the inevitable future legal case when the phone really cannot ever be unlocked? Then it will be down to lob

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:27AM (#51547979)

    asked phone manufacturers LG, Samsung, and Sony and computer manufacturers Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo (which also owns phone manufacturer Motorola) whether they agreed with the government or Apple in the unfolding legal battle.

    None of them also make the OS, they're just the hardware guys. The FBI is asking for a software backdoor.

    Google (those guys behind Android) has stood by Apple [macworld.com]

    • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:34AM (#51547997)

      Google may make the core OS for Android devices but I can assure you that Samsung and HTC and LG and the other OEMs releasing Android devices do a lot of software work themselves. More to the point, it would be HTC or LG or Samsung or whoever that would need to produce a customized software stack with a backdoor in it if the FBI needed it, not Google (especially if the device the FBI wanted cracked would only run signed firmware)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It's not the OS developer who can unlock the secure memory that holds the encryption key or disable the rate limiting/auto erase. It's the CPU manufacturer.

        Samsung make their own CPUs. Most others use Qualcomm or Allwinner parts. Samsung and Allwinner are not US companies which complicates things a bit. Qualcomm didn't make the mistake of allowing the secure memory's firmware to be altered so couldn't comply anyway.

      • The amount of other software added by the OEMs is not the point. The point is that the bulk of hardware encryption software Android has is created by Google. But because Google does not control the hardware, Android cannot enforce the application of it. If the hardware is capable, an Android phone is every bit as locked down as an iPhone and there is little that Google or the OEM can do to unlock it.
    • by c ( 8461 )

      None of them also make the OS, they're just the hardware guys.

      Well, that and the majority of Apple's hardware competitors aren't US companies, and hence operate under somewhat different legal environments; in some cases, legal environments where resisting government law enforcement efforts is suicide.

      Microsoft is one of the few US competitors equivalent to Apple, and everyone knows where they stand on the security and privacy of their users.

    • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @01:04PM (#51548621) Homepage

      It would be Samsung, not Google, that would have to bake a custom ROM in similar circumstances.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @01:26PM (#51548739)

      None of them also make the OS, they're just the hardware guys.

      False. The other guys make enough OS customisations that they are well and truly in control of features to this level. Take a look at features like Samsung Knox to see what kind of security bolt-ons these vendors put on top of the features already in existence on Android. Many of these vendors also attempt to lock down the boot loader to prevent unauthorised code from running in ways that isn't part of the standard Android feature set so they most definitely do make major security changes to the OS before loading them on devices.

  • Why should they? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sneftel ( 15416 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:33AM (#51547991)

    What good would it do them? Since Google has taken point on designing, evangelizing, and (recently) mandating strong, backdoor-less crypto -- actions they, along with most of the technologentsia, are firmly in favor of -- they can ride the wave of inevitability, rather than stick their neck out with broad anti-government pronouncements. Sometimes the best PR is no PR.

  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @09:39AM (#51548015) Journal
    This is a win-win situation for competitor corporations who might find themselves ideologically aligned with Apple's stance, yet lack the political will to stand against the governors ubiquitous snooping.

    If Apple wins, everyone of them win. If Apple loses, and they could, they lose alone.

    Listen to the proffered positions of the pretenders to the Presidential nomination. To many non-tech people, Apple's stance is bordering on treason.

    • Whether Apple "wins" this fight or not is completely irrelevant to privacy or security. The only way to make sure that your data is secure is to make the technology secure, not to fight governments or subpoenas. That means that phone backups need to be encrypted with a pass phrase and biometric identifiers (including pins and pass codes) cannot be used as keys and need to be verified by a secure subsystem before performing decryption. Furthermore, in order to be sure that this works as advertised, it needs
    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @11:11AM (#51548279)

      To many non-tech people, Apple's stance is bordering on treason.

      That is only because most people like to have opinions on things they know nothing about.

      I cannot begin to tell you how many non-pilots have strong opinions about aviation, helicopters, and all things flying, while having no idea whatsoever what they are talking about (I'm a professional pilot with commercial and instrument ratings in both airplanes and helicopters, a certified flight instructor in both airplanes and helicopters, with thousands of hours of flight time and over 2,000 hours of dual instruction given). Yet whenever major aviation stuff is in the news, they all like to talk like somehow they have a clue.

      • I know you're right. Often, smart people are the worst offenders, as if some skill or acumen in an unrelated field leaks over into all things.
      • To many non-tech people, Apple's stance is bordering on treason.

        That is only because most people like to have opinions on things they know nothing about.

        You mean like "treason" being applicable, when the only currently outstanding and ratified articles of war that the U.S. has are versus North Korea?

        Otherwise, you know, we'd be going against Wall Street for their "treason" committed during the "War On Poverty" (another ongoing war on a concept that the U.S. has "declared").

        • False, it is legally well-established that when Congress authorizes money for a military action, that is the "declaration" that the War Powers Resolution and other documents talks about. There is not, and never was, a Declaration of War Form that gets filled out. Congress doesn't like to use the word, but they still authorize wars.

          As an example, the Authorization for use of Force against Terrorists of 2001 specifically says that it satisfies the declaration of war requirement, even though it doesn't use the

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Yes but to those people treason is beating a Russian at chess without permission to play the match. Meanwhile a "patriot" sells weapons to terrorists less than a year after those terrorists have killed more than one hundred US Marines. Why should we care how people with such fucked up concepts call traitors since it comes down to people in their Party can do no wrong while people outside are seen as evil?
      • Why should we care how people with such fucked up concepts call traitors since it comes down to people in their Party can do no wrong while people outside are seen as evil?

        Well, we care because this stupidity is among us, and because what stupid people do en masse can sometimes affect the rest of us.

        The point is simply that Apple has found itself on the same side of the privacy argument as many of us, but there are factions of citizens who couldn't care less or begin to understand what is actually at stake here.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      This is a win-win situation for competitor corporations who might find themselves ideologically aligned with Apple's stance, yet lack the political will to stand against the governors ubiquitous snooping. If Apple wins, everyone of them win. If Apple loses, and they could, they lose alone.

      First of all, corporations are rarely ideologically aligned to anything. Apple wants people to trust the iPhone so they'll buy iPhones. And post-Snowden, the more noise they can make about the US government not being able to crack it the better for world sales. Even if they lose, I think they'll still win by introducing the "iPhone Clipper Chip" edition for the US, creating an impossible situation where businessmen, tourists and others come to the US with uncrackable phones. I really doubt Apple gives a cra

      • You're probably correct. I know this plays well for foreign sales.

        But maybe some geek at the top of a tech superpower, who already has all the money he could ever spend, might just decide to stand for something he believes in.

    • A bit off-topic, but I'm going to love the debates in the general election when those candidates have to debate this against the backdrop of Snowden. Right now the Republican candidates are having a shouting contest over this only in the context of terrorism. In the general election, the broader issue of rights will be discussed, and they're going to have a hard time reconciling this standing across from somebody arguing that it violates people's rights. So far both the Democrats are refusing to "take a sid

  • Answer: NSL

    case closed.

    • The answer is actually that "They aren't silent. Apple's two biggest competitors in the smartphone market are Google and Microsoft. Both have put out statements supporting Apple's position."
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      The biggest issue I can see with NSL's is the non-disclosure aspect... to the point that you aren't even allowed to say why you won't talk about something even if you are directly asked, and what I can see being the biggest problem there is that can put a person in a position where the only way that they may be able to prevent revealing that they aren't allowed to talk about something (by explicitly avoiding talking about it if they are asked, for example, which may suggest to someone who pays attention to

  • I just have a question: Is it possible to download and install some software that will do exactly what Apple has done with their [iPhone] devices?

    If so, let Apple do as they please then quietly advertise the availability of this software.

    • No, because (especially in current models) a major part of the encryption and related protections against brute forcing a key are engrained in the hardware. The best a software update could do is approach the iPhone 5 level (the kind of phone the FBI is now so desperate to unlock) of security.

  • They don't want to get accused that they're "just copying Apple".... again.
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @10:50AM (#51548215)

    ...but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.

    They are watching Apple to see if they get hammered by the DOJ or win business due to not selling out their customer's privacy.

  • Based on what has come out over the last few days, it seems like there are two ways the FBI can access information on an iPhone: from the backups on Apple's servers and by disabling the limit on the number of passcode attempts in its OS without requiring the user to unlock it first. It's because of those two weaknesses that the FBI can order Apple to help them access information on a phone.

    What's the situtaion with other phones? Hardware manufacturers don't handle Android backups, Google does. And Google

    • You have to reboot for an iOS update as well. However, the update would let you try all 10,000 pin combinations if the FBI had their way.

      • You have to reboot for an iOS update as well. However, the update would let you try all 10,000 pin combinations if the FBI had their way.

        The issue isn't whether you have to reboot the phone, but whether you have to unlock it for the upgrade and how they implement the unlock count. This is complicated because there are many different ways of implementing it. But whichever way you look at it, a secure system must guarantee that no matter what an external user does, you get to try your pin combinations only

  • Just a theory but there are some 4000 Android devices from 400 different manufacturers using who knows what version of Android that may or may not be in the original form since it's open source.

  • by Mr. Jackson ( 207564 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @11:29AM (#51548355)
    One of the big reasons to spend $600 on an iphone instead of $100 on an Android is privacy and security. I need a smartphone about $100 worth, but I was just about to bite the bullet and get an iphone because of the phone's built-in encryption and Apple's pro-privacy policy. Now I'm going to wait and see. A backdoor into iphone makes me less likely to fork over the extra money, to the good of Apple's competitors.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And you are not the only one thinking that way. The only thing Apple does better is security and privacy. Other than that, there is no reason to get an iPhone (except maybe "lifestyle", i.e. it is a fetish). Apple stands to lose big-time here if they cave. The problem really is that the FBI does not ask them to unlock just this one phone, they are demanding a tool that would allow them to get into any similar iPhone (not the newer ones though), and Apple has to refuse in order to protect their reputation.

      Wh

  • Hire some ex-Apple employees to hack this phone. It's a job, and the government has every right to crack THAT phone. But Apple shouldn't be the only people in the world who can do it, and shouldn't be forced to. Surely if he government pays someone enough money, they can do whatever Apple would do half-heartedly
    • Former employees would probably be liable to a civil suit if they did this. I'm pretty sure Apple makes you sign legal documents when you get a job there.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      O ye of simple minds. The issue here is not cracking that single phone.

  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @12:08PM (#51548443)

    Let's look at a few good reasons to stay silent if you're an Apple competitor.

    1. Apple's competitors are based in South Korea and China. They're going to have a much harder time arguing privacy with the US government.
    2. Apple has lots of money and excellent legal counsel. They'll put up a better fight than their competitors possibly could.
    3. Staying silent won't piss off any American lobby groups, and it probably won't piss off the American general public.
    4. This could be a PR nightmare if someone mis-words something. You don't want to accidentally paint yourself as pro-terrorist.
    5. There's no obvious win here. If the corporations win and privacy remains paramount, eventually someone is going to do something awful that involves encrypted communication. At that point, the corporations look bad. If the government wins, things could devolve into 1984 if the wrong people ascend to power.

  • This is simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @12:20PM (#51548481)
    Is WinZip responsible for cracking passwords that their customers' set on their zip files? No! That's their product and that's what their product does. It's a security and privacy product so naturally the company doesn't "hold the keys" or put in a backdoor. All cellphone makers should leave encryption in the hands of the customer and tell the FBI to fuck off.
  • What happens if Apple tries to cooperate, attempts to write a version of iOS that will do what the FBI wants, and the result does not work? What if it takes a long time to write? Who compensates Apple for the programmers' time while that tool is being developed, tested, and debugged? What if the code they make accidentally has bugs that cause data loss on the device that simply were not exposed during QA testing?

    • The United States tax payers are going to foot the bill for this if it happens. Apple is allowed to bill the F.B.I. for reasonable costs. So we get to pay for our own screwing.
  • Maybe the rest of them can see that they, and Apple, have all done a lot more for China and they, unlike Apple, don't want to draw too much attention to it only to look like hypocritical oafs that would rather do China's bidding so that political dissidents can be silenced, than to do something where it almost (but not quite) would make sense to do something like this in a free society. Fark Apple, trying to pretend they have a moral high-ground here. Maybe we should just ask China for help hacking the ph
  • In three weeks. Bet Tim Cook got a good chuckle from that.
  • And, since this is an American legal matter, this is not any part of their business.
    And, since China mainly wants the same thing as the U.S. government, they are against apple on this.
    Voicing that could produce a backlash by some consumers, so they are better off keeping quiet on the subject.

  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @03:56PM (#51549481) Journal

    Apple is being compelled to create speech in violation of the first amendment. It's not an issue of if they can do it. Unlike previous cases such as the Elayne Photography case [nytimes.com] when a photographer asserted first amendment rights against photographing a wedding where the couple was gay, the photographer hung out her shingle as a business for photographing weddings. Gays are protected in the state where this happened.

    In this case, Apple is in the business of selling iphones, not selling custom firmware for iphones. They can't restrict sale from gays, for example, but forcing them to create custom firmware for random customers is not their business. Not to mention, the FBI isn't exactly a protected class, nor is apple refusing based on the fact they're FBI. They're refusing because they won't do it for anyone.

    There were other cases where a 1st amendment defense wouldn't work, such as lavabit [theguardian.com] where they were handed a piece of equipment and ordered to install it.

    • The funny part is that the NY pen trap case that the FBI is citing goes into the exact stuff you say here; the order was legal because the phone company already used the tool for internal fraud prevention, and for customers who wanted to trace their own lines. The SCOTUS decision had a dissent that warned of this exact future problem; the majority ruling asserted that this wouldn't be a problem in the future, and that it was obvious that it wouldn't apply more broadly.

      My prediction is that the SCOTUS will b

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