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Encryption Government Security The Almighty Buck Apple Politics Your Rights Online

Apple Employees, If Ordered To Unlock iPhone, Might Quit (nytimes.com) 417

An anonymous reader quotes an NYTimes article: Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees. [...] The employees' concerns also provide insight into a company culture that despite the trappings of Silicon Valley wealth still views the world through the decades-old, anti-establishment prism of its co-founders Steven P. Jobs and Steve Wozniak. [...] The fear of losing a paycheck may not have much of an impact on security engineers whose skills are in high demand. Indeed, hiring them could be a badge of honor among other tech companies that share Apple's skepticism of the government's intentions.
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Apple Employees, If Ordered To Unlock iPhone, Might Quit

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  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:19AM (#51723513) Journal

    1. Ordered to not bow to the Steve Jobs statue every day.

    2. The cafeteria/yoga center runs out of fair-trade artisanal non-GMO lemon grass smoothies.

    3. Apple actually starts fixing bugs in OS X instead of focusing on SHINY in iOS.

    4. Siri tells them that their auras are not in tune with the universal energy of orange.

    • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @03:35PM (#51726429)

      The entire "anti-establishment" premise of the summary is wrong. It is not anti-establishment for security professionals to refuse to break security.

      It is professionally responsible. It's like if a priest is ordered to convert a parishioner to satanism, a doctor is ordered to harm a patient, or a cop is ordered to beat the crap out of an old lady.

  • Paywalled link, why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:22AM (#51723541) Journal

    The link in the summary is to the login of the paywall, which makes no sense. The actual link should be: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/technology/apple-encryption-engineers-if-ordered-to-unlock-iphone-might-resist.html [nytimes.com].

    Not that anyone reads TFA...

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:33AM (#51723643)
    It might not be smart to quit if, while employed, they are under Apple's umbrella of legal protection. Alone in the wild, could employees with knowledge on how to crack the phone* be pressured to crack the phones?

    * = "Hey, remember when Apple said phones couldn't be cracked? Ha, good times, good times. (cries in beer)"
    • It might not be smart to quit if, while employed, they are under Apple's umbrella of legal protection. Alone in the wild, could employees with knowledge on how to crack the phone* be pressured to crack the phones? * = "Hey, remember when Apple said phones couldn't be cracked? Ha, good times, good times. (cries in beer)"

      The phone can't be cracked. The DOJ wants Apple's signing keys so they can install malware on an iPhone that would disable the data wipe feature. An ex-employee in the wild couldn't do that, unless he stole Apple's keys on his way out.

      • by kbonin ( 58917 )

        Technically it could be cracked using existing techniques that involve depotting and e-beam probing of its chips, but we all know they aren't interested in the data on THIS phone, they want a skeleton key to crack everybody else's phone, ideally one that returns their handy "plug in cable and instantly download everything of interest" tool that so many LEOs are in love with.

    • It might not be smart to quit if, while employed, they are under Apple's umbrella of legal protection. Alone in the wild, could employees with knowledge on how to crack the phone* be pressured to crack the phones?

      If the design is any good -- and I'm quite sure it is -- then knowledge doesn't matter. What matters is possession of the Apple signing keys, and departing employees wouldn't get to take those with them.

      * = "Hey, remember when Apple said phones couldn't be cracked? Ha, good times, good times. (cries in beer)"

      All security is relative to a threat model, and when Apple said that they -- quite reasonably -- didn't consider Apple being ordered to sign weakened versions of their security software as part of their threat model.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:36AM (#51723677)

    I thought affirming that I'd rather quit than attend daily scrum meetings was noble and principled. Damn.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:36AM (#51723685) Homepage

    Has it come to this ? You are anti establishment if you expect the government to play fair, to obey the constitution, to not play games to get powers that it does not really need (for the purposes that it claims that it needs them for anyway) ? What are they putting into your water supply out there ?

    • by kuzb ( 724081 )

      I recommend this instructional video to help you understand the mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • The employees' concerns also provide insight into a company culture that despite the trappings of Silicon Valley wealth still views the world through the decades-old, anti-establishment prism of its co-founders Steven P. Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

    The culture is not anti-establishment. Some of the employees might have a general anti-establishment leaning, but Apple is the establishment. Just have a look at their market cap. Also, if the culture of Apple is anti-establishment, then why were they so vigorous

  • by emil ( 695 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:44AM (#51723799)

    Apple can easily solve this problem by forming an independent subsidiary in Germany which will maintain keys and security settings, which is then contracted into the next iOS upgrade. The current keys should be erased at the next upgrade. Then, the German government can approve FBI warrants for the use of the keys.

    For real fun, Apple should announce that the iCloud servers for U.S. Government workers are moving to China, starting with all members of congress.

    • Apple can easily solve this problem by forming an independent subsidiary in Germany which will maintain keys and security settings, which is then contracted into the next iOS upgrade. The current keys should be erased at the next upgrade. Then, the German government can approve FBI warrants for the use of the keys.

      For real fun, Apple should announce that the iCloud servers for U.S. Government workers are moving to China, starting with all members of congress.

      That's not a bad idea, except Germany is a bad pick as a soon-to-be Five Eyes country. Perhaps better would be Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Poland, etc.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Then you're just at Germany's will anyway - different venue, same problem.

      And, it's not the encryption that's the problem. It's the source code. They are being told that they have to modify the device so that the encryption can be bypassed. Physical access to a machine is game over, always remember that. There's little Apple could do to stop that, if it is indeed ordered in court.

      If the device was properly encrypted, nothing short of the actual passphrase, or the encryption key itself that's normally pr

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:47AM (#51723837) Homepage

    The FBI already has access to information they need, they are just using this as a strong arm attempt to force a company to bow to their wishes. and sadly they got a corrupt judge to go along with them.

    Honestly, if every single american is not up in arms and screaming at their congress critter right now to stop this bullshit, then they need to move to soviet russia where things are more to their liking.

  • Eventualities.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Friday March 18, 2016 @11:47AM (#51723839)

    The federal government will try to take Apple apart piece by piece: in court, in the press, and perhaps by brain drain from people leaving.

    To the government, it's very important to set a precedent where companies have to comply, in all circumstances, with any and all requests for technical assistance- regardless of the true legality. So expect ongoing government behavior to accomplish these goals.

    If engineers quit over this, good for them. If Apple makes it out relatively unscathed- I'll be content.

    This particular issue- might damage the company and US tech industry in ways we've not even considered yet. Consider the idea that encryption technology moves offshore from the US. Consider the competitive disadvantage if foreign encryption schemes need to be used rather than home grown ones. Would US companies be competitive? Would secure foreign technologies even be available in the US?

    This whole thing is dangerous in the long term. Apple better win this or the face of technology changes in the USA.

  • The SCOTUS has determined that corporations are people.

    The government can demand you hand things over, but they can't compel you work, unless they conscript you. They can rifle through your stuff, but they can't make you rifle through your neighbors stuff.

    So, unless the government is going to "conscript" the entire "person" that is Apple and then order "it" to write the code to defeat their encryption I don't see what the government can do.

    For that matter, Apple could simply buy an island in the pacific an
  • by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:22PM (#51724237) Homepage
    Is that all, folks?
  • "Indeed, hiring them could be a badge of honor...."

    Perhaps, but it's not something that I'd count on.

    Yes, it would look good on a resume but also signals that the person might quit at perceived notion of something that they didn't agree with, and that could be almost any company policy. But still, it would give the employee some serious street cred and probably make them seen as a solid person.

    On the other hand, it could possibly signal a change in the perceived worth of an employee, in that the company nee

  • It does not matter if they all quit. If there is even 1 that does it, it is all for naught. This may be a new person who is brought in for this purpose, a person threatened by blackmail or a young parent who needs the job to pay food for the kids.

    What I do in these cases is point first to the law that we need a order from a judge. Next I will point to my managers and the companies lawyers and that will either mean my manager tells me to do it or he does not.

    I will take no orders from anybody else. And yes,

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:55PM (#51724697)
    I'm with Apple on this whole mess but this "leak" is a PR move. Apple usually doesn't let their engineers talk about what they ate for lunch let alone matters such as this.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:56PM (#51724721)

    Sabatage

    Agree to help, but at every turn undermine the effort with obscure bugs.

    "Oh, you went through every possible combination and it still didn't unlock? Silly me, it was just recycling the first ten attempts the whole time. My bad!".

    You could probably string along the FBI indefinitely.

  • Problem is the way things are going if they threaten to quit the government goons will probably threaten them and their families with detention and prosecution.
  • by IcyWolfy ( 514669 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @05:24PM (#51727201) Homepage

    They should really just relocate their head-office to another country in which they already operate.
    And take any developers that want to live overseas someplace.

    I say have them set up a development centre in THailand, or the Philippines, and then with the influx of Apple Money, the developers, and their families will be living like wealthy estate owners, complete with house-workers, at a fraction of their current Bay Area living expenses.

    They would lose the American Tax loophole, which exists because most countries charge taxes based on where management is located, to avoid what the US does: charges taxes based on region incorporated.

    Thus, new tech boom begins in Asia, Massive gentrification, and infrastructure improvements paid for by private companies.

    It'd be a Republican's dream.

    And as a side-effect, would create a new middle class in the area due to the sudden creation of service economies; and raise wealth due to the influx of US$ (or whatever currency they would use to pay employees)

    I would relocate if they gave me the option to (and keep my CA salary)

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