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Encryption Government Security United States Apple Politics Your Rights Online

US Says It Would Use 'Court System' Again To Defeat Encryption (arstechnica.com) 232

An anonymous reader shares an Ars Technica report: U.S. government officials from the FBI director down have said repeatedly that the FBI-Apple legal brouhaha was just about a single phone -- the seized iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. And just last week, James Comey, the FBI director, said his fight with Apple wasn't about setting precedent; rather, it was about battling terrorism. But it seems that the storyline has changed. The Justice Department now says it will not hesitate to invoke the precedent it won in its iPhone unlocking case. Having won the court and technological battle a triumphant Department of Justice warned late Monday that its legal battle for what many say amounts to judicially ordered encryption backdoors has only just begun. "It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails," Melanie Newman, a Justice Department spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to Ars. "We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors."
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US Says It Would Use 'Court System' Again To Defeat Encryption

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  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:03PM (#51801459) Journal

    Add the letters "ab" to the front of "use" and you'll get a better idea of what the FBI appears to want to do with the courts in this case...

    • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @03:29PM (#51802225)

      "Abuse" perhaps. But more than that, DELUSION . In reality the FBI has won no precedent, and in fact backed out because the precedent was going to go against them.

      These platitudes and pontifications are nothing more than "PR" from the FBI that knows very well they would have lost in a specular way that would have negatively colored EVERY SINGLE "next" case.

      Fact is, the FBI whimpered away with their tail between their legs and is trying to make the best of it.

      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        Really. This article is nothing less than delusional. Is Ars Technica just taking dictation from the FBI now?

    • "It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails,"

      How do they define "crucial"? I mean, you don't know if there's any relevant information on that phone, so how can one define such unknown information as "crucial"?
      Also, protecting "national security and public safety" should be a proactive act. Scouring through their phones AFTER the motherfuckers did their act is anything but proactive.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Also, protecting "national security and public safety" should be a proactive act.

        From that line of thinking we get ideas like PRISM. No. Just no.

        The only way to proactively stop someone from committing a crime is to invade their privacy. But you don't know who's privacy to invade until you've already done it. Therefore we must invade everyone's privacy!

        But that's OK because we all trust the government to be good, honest and inhumanly capable of securing their databases, right? Those silly constitution writers didn't know what they were talking about when they made that fourth amend

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Actually there is only one way to stop crime. That is accepting the reality of the situation, crime is the result of poor breeding choices, poor parenting skills and poor educational opportunities. Seriously want to end crime then those three sides of the crime triangle need to be tackled, fail at any one and crime will persist and victims will continue to be created.

          So is this really about ending crime or just more rich versus poor laws. Rich get privacy and the rich get to invade the privacy of the poo

        • I was talking about preventing crime by helping make society better.
          When large swaths of population with high crime risk aren't helped integrate or better themselves, it's only expected for them to turn to crime.

  • Obvious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There are still people who believes government lies.
    It was obvious right from the beginning that it wasn't about one phone. Enjoy what remain of your privacy while you can.

    Now, can I have my +5 mod? Well, I am AC, so I will probably get beaten to it by a logged-in user with a karma bonus.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:38PM (#51801817) Journal

      There are still people who believes government lies.

      That would be anybody who votes for a republican or democrat. A little over 98% according to the last numbers. And they are digging in their heels when challenged over it.

      • No, those are the people who believe politicians, or those who understand the unfortunate math behind the US voting system.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          We make the math. The system is us. If it is "broken", it means we are.

        • "The unfortunate math?" Why is the math so unlucky? Why are we leaving it that way?

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Or Green or independent or any other label you want to apply. "Government" is made up of many people, not all of whom are even voted for (hell not even most,) and at least some proportion of which are going to be dicks because power draws assholes like moths to a flame.

        Even if you have one favored candidate up on your little pedestal and even if they're actually as awesome as you proclaim, there's a whole shitload of other people waiting to fill in the dickery slot for them and those people come from all p

      • It's impossible to know what's true and decide that the best course of action is to vote for a Republican or Democrat? Frequently the third party candidates all seem worse to me than at least one of the major party candidates.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:04PM (#51801479)

    So now the FBI is claiming they won the court battle? Shameless.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:56PM (#51801989)

      The case didn't complete the challenge, but at the same time, there was no ruling, so there is only one ruling at this time: the court order compelling Apple to cooperate.

      So, they didn't actually win the war, but they do have a solid tactical victory under their belts that they could turn strategic under the right circumstances. They may have backed off their offensive this time, but they're still in possession of the battlefield and the territory behind it where they can launch an attack from in the future, at their leisure.

      So, for some value of winning, they *have* won something, just not everything all at once.

      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        This is a tactical defeat for the FBI, as they got neither compliance nor a precedent. The strategic case, as you say, still remains open

    • The same FBI that says to pay the ransom when your network gets hit with ransomware. Just so you all know.

      http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

      Reported last week by Security Ledger, Joseph Bonavolonta, the Assistant Special Agent who oversees the FBI’s CYBER and Counterintelligence Program in Boston, spoke at the 2015 Cyber Security Summit and advised that companies infected with ransomware may want to give in to the criminal’s demands.

      “The ransomware is that good,” Bonavolonta explained

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        That sounds completely in line to be honest, since those ransomware programs are using strong encryption to do their work, and the FBI is all about stamping out strong encryption. I'm surprised they don't try to bring that out as a talking point.. maybe not in this Apple case (since Apple would rightly question how the fuck that's related) but in their more general anti-encryption stance.

        I mean it would be bullshit of course.. its not like all the laws in the world would convince the ransomware people to s

  • Precedent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:05PM (#51801485)

    Did the FBI just get one judge to issue an illegal order, then they withdrew the case while that order was under appeal, and claim a precedent-setting win?

    • Re:Precedent? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:16PM (#51801597)

      They have experience from doing this for Vietnam and Afghanistan too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drew_kime ( 303965 )

      Did the FBI just get one judge to issue an illegal order, then they withdrew the case while that order was under appeal, and claim a precedent-setting win?

      I don't see that the feds used the term "legal precedent", but that's clearly the impression they want to give.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Paul King ( 2953311 )

      The precedent was set long ago, that slashdot summaries can and will be crap and that people will react is if they are absolutely true.

    • Did the FBI just get one judge to issue an illegal order, then they withdrew the case while that order was under appeal, and claim a precedent-setting win?

      I doubt the order they got was "illegal" as you say. Just because you don't like it, that doesn't make it "illegal". But yes, the article has a link to another article that says that the FBI got a federal judge in Riverside, California to give them an order mandating that Apple create a custom firmware file. It happened almost 2 weeks ago and this is the first I'm hearing about it.

      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        The case was dropped on appeal by the fbi, no precedence was set.
      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        I doubt the order they got was "illegal" as you say. Just because you don't like it, that doesn't make it "illegal". But yes, the article has a link to another article that says that the FBI got a federal judge in Riverside, California to give them an order mandating that Apple create a custom firmware file. It happened almost 2 weeks ago and this is the first I'm hearing about it.

        You might want to consider changing your news sources, as the court order was issued in February, and this has been extensively covered, up to and including a Congressional hearing on March 1.

      • Apple was going to argue that it was illegal, and then the FBI dropped the matter. If the FBI was confident that the order would stand, they would have gone ahead with the action. Getting Apple to go along with the FBI demands would have been much more useful for the FBI than paying an Israeli firm to break the phone.

    • Not exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @03:02PM (#51802029)

      Did the FBI just get one judge to issue an illegal order, then they withdrew the case while that order was under appeal, and claim a precedent-setting win?

      Claiming a win? Sure, because you have people with careers having the biggest-profile case in their life who want to keep their jobs and careers from taking a black mark. Realistically it was sort of a draw and sort of a "let's back the hell off because we might lose this one right now..."

      But not exactly on the order. The order wasn't illegal; it's just that it basically issued but Apple could challenge it legally. The briefing to the magistrate judge (which was basically the government vs. the entire tech industry, and was maybe the most extensively briefed issue at the magistrate level in history), would have been the place where it was decided in the first instance, with appeals from there to the district court judge, the court of appeals, and then a petition for (and likely grant of) a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court, where we would have gotten an answer that would probably change when Congress changed the law.

    • Re:Precedent? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @04:01PM (#51802507)

      Seems Apple should be able to sue the FBI at this point to request a declaratory judgement against their order, due to the harm it does them to have the question about this order still left open...

    • They didn't win shit! Withdrawing the case is akin to admitting defeat, making their claim of a win total nonsense.
  • i knew as soon as they got the order the case would be dropped and they would announce they got into the phone. this entire bs was about setting a legal precedent.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:12PM (#51801549)

    Laws and rules exist so we can rule over you. If you won't bend a knee, we'll break it. And make no mistake, we're accountable to no one. That's the attitude throughout the US government.

  • Surprised? (Score:5, Informative)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:13PM (#51801557)

    Of course you aren't. Everyone who isn't in the government was saying this since the FBI first demanded it.

    But the real terrorists do not use encryption like that. They don't have to.

    The government is trying to push the narrative that the world is just like a Hollywood movie. It isn't. We do not need to give up our privacy so that the government can fight the "bad" men.

    When you weaken encryption, you just make the "good" people more vulnerable to criminals.

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      My understanding is that DAESH / Al Quaida have both gone hard-core on their message security. The ones that don't tend to wind up dead.

  • patriot act 2 will fix this!

  • Of course the FBI & the DOJ will prosecute their 3rd party helpers to the fullest extent possible for DMCA violations, right? I mean that iPhone didn't just unencrypt itself...
  • Both Apple & the government of the USA have learned from the recent spat, partly on the technical front and also on how to present their case in the court of public opinion.

    Apple will further remove its ability to break into encrypted 'phones but as importantly be able to paint in bad colours any government that tries to make it do such things. This is assuming that this was not for show to fool ''undesirables'' that Apple 'phones are safe - something that would benefit Apple (more sales) and the government (more good data on the 'phones that it cracks).

    The government will look for an even more compelling case so that it can accuse Apple of helping terrorists/paedophiles/... and so win the legal case that sets precedent or be able to pass laws that let it do so.

  • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:18PM (#51801617)

    ...the makers of devices and encryption software will fight the US with every fiber of their beings...

    • ...the makers of devices and encryption software will fight the US with every fiber of their beings...

      At least until they decide that life is just easier offshore somewhere in which case they'll sell compromised phones into the US market leaving the rest of the world (relatively) secure.

      I mean, on top of the tax benefits they already get from being outside the US.

      • Problem with that is just about every other government around the world is turning fascist and demanding these sorts of backdoors and ramping up the spying on their own citizens too

        • Problem with that is just about every other government around the world is turning fascist and demanding these sorts of backdoors and ramping up the spying on their own citizens too

          Not at all. There are tons of poor/small countries who are perfectly willing to ask nothing at all in exchange for some amount of money that for the poor/small country is huge but is nothing compared to the taxes that the company 'saves' on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Out of curiosity are all safe manufacturers in the United States required to provided master keys to all of their locking mechanisms to the FBI? If a criminal happens to throw some important evidence in a safe do they go after the safe manufacturers?

    I was under the impression that the FBI brought in a professional to crack the safe for them. Or if they were really desperate they just blew the thing up knowing that they might damage the contents. Doesn't the same apply here?

    • Most safes can be cracked with sufficient time. (either picking them if keyed, or trying every permutation if it's a combination lock).

      I don't know enough about safes to know if any of the electronic locks do anything to slow down how fast you can enter the combo if you fail it too many times ... but as many of 'em are vulnerable to a strong magnet, it might not be an issue.

      Most high-end safes that have protection to defend against drilling (ie, trying to bypass the locks), where doing so would break a pie

  • .... What's old is new again!

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:25PM (#51801683) Homepage Journal

    And you call the FBI to report it, they don't do anything.

    They want weak encryption (or no encryption) that is easily cracked, with plenty of backdoors, and then when criminals expose these weaknesses, the government does nothing to protect the citizens from crime.

    But hey, shoot up a private party, and as long as you have a funny-sounding name and vaguely brownish skin color, then the government wants to protect you, at any cost.

    Of course, double standard -- if you're a white christian male and you shoot up a school full of kids, the response is "hey, shit happens", and the government does nothing.

    Really, this country is fucked. Completely.

    • But hey, shoot up a private party, and as long as you have a funny-sounding name and vaguely brownish skin color, then the government wants to protect you, at any cost.

      So the government protects you if you're a minority. And that's bad.

      Of course, double standard -- if you're a white christian male and you shoot up a school full of kids, the response is "hey, shit happens", and the government does nothing.

      Really, this country is fucked. Completely.

      But the government protects you if you're a white Christian male. And that's bad.

      So wait ... what was your point again?

    • "But hey, shoot up a private party, and as long as you have a funny-sounding name and vaguely brownish skin color, then the government wants to protect you, at any cost."

      Bullshit.

      "Of course, double standard -- if you're a white christian male and you shoot up a school full of kids, the response is "hey, shit happens", and the government does nothing."

      Again Bullshit.

      But don't let reality get in the way of your rant.

  • Shit got vacated. That means the court order they obtained in the Farook iPhone case is null and void.

    They talking about the weak one they got in New York? Yea, that one won't fly very far, either.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Doesn't matter. The order might be vacated, but the decision that allowed it is still on the books. The order is vacated because it was no longer desired to be enforced. That didn't change the premise under which the order was granted.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Yes, it does matter. For all intents and purposes, as this case was VACATED, *IT NEVER HAPPENED.*

        They can't point to this case as any sort of precedent, PERIOD. Legally, IT DOES NOT EXIST.

  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:27PM (#51801709)

    U.S. government forces Microsoft and Apple to put backdoors into their products equals nobody buying anything from these two American companies anymore.

    The U.S. government is destroying its own economy!

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Yeah good luck with that.

      More like equals 1% of people not buying anything from those two companies anymore. Most people have no idea what the hell encryption is, how it works, or why we can't just let the FBI do their job.. computers are exactly like cars after all, right? Or door locks or something we understand and just works and we don't need to think about it while we get back to surfing for cats and porn.

      And of the people who do understand the issues, switching to a whole different OS, losing all of

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:31PM (#51801745) Homepage Journal

    Gee. if only the FBI put as much work into making sure automatic weapons don't get into the hands of criminals as much as they worried about telephones getting into the hands of criminals.

    • by Indy1 ( 99447 ) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:34PM (#51801779) Homepage

      That would require the FBI to investigate their sister service the ATF, who was caught not too long ago smuggling firearms to Mexican drug cartels.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • When was the last time automatic weapons were used in a crime in the United States? I'll give you a hint, it is very, very rare for automatic weapons to be used by criminals in the US.
    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Gee. if only the FBI put as much work into making sure automatic weapons don't get into the hands of criminals as much as they worried about telephones getting into the hands of criminals.

      What makes you think that they don't use the same amount of effort? It seems like they've had about the same level of actual success, which is to say, very limited success.

    • Gee. if only the FBI put as much work into making sure automatic weapons don't get into the hands of criminals as much as they worried about telephones getting into the hands of criminals.

      Well, given the fact that no crimes or acts of terrorism are committed with automatic weapons in the US, you can't really say they've got that wrong. If you want to talk about semi-automatic weapons then at least there's a discussion to be had, but not automatics.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:32PM (#51801757)
    Of course they'll say that. It's not like THEY'RE paying for it.
  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @02:34PM (#51801781)

    We already know secret courts have approved things "for the benfit of the people" to protect them.

    The various elements of the US government are already doing the things they wish to "make legal".

    It's not about terrorism or even about setting a precedent because that already happened "legally", in a court ruling you never knew existed. IMHO this is about saving face and following the "proper channels" to act in a manner that is acceptable by the multitudes.

    You think all the money, time and effort put into mass surveillance and weakening encryption is just going to go away because it's no legal? it wasn't legal to begin with but it happened.

    They want to go through a regular court, backed by "the people" (preferably by popular consensus) that will give them the power they already have so next time it will all be legal and "acceptable" because Joe Sixpack agreed.

    They will try again and again in many guises until it becomes law. It would have been pushed regardless of who you voted for because you have no vote in matters of security. It cannot be discussed because we're being protected in our name, against our will.
  • Slow Down Guys!! I need a nice story on IoT catboxes or maybe a calm bit on programming lava lamps. This government mind-fuck crap needs a rest. PLEASE!!
  • This just gives Apple the push it needs to make the next gen of phones even more secure than the 5S, 6 and 6S.

    The FBI thought they had it easy using Cellibrite to unlock a 5C which doesn't even have a dedicated encryption chip, they've got another thing coming.

    • This looked like a planned advertisement for Apple.
    • They have now proven that any company smaller than Apple (the largest company in the world?) that wants to fight them will lose millions of dollars.
    • This should be an abuse of the law. In that, if I don't like the precedent I am setting I can drop the case while waiting for better circumstances.
    • There is a weird double standard going on where previously they needed to rewrite every law for the Internet and now they are happy to use 19th century law.
    • This has
  • Who needs pesky laws when you have a court system in your back pocket.

  • Apple refused to sabotage their equipment. The courts refused to order them to do so.

    They proved they didn't need to sabotage the software. Demonstrating lie to their own words.

    Now this idiot thinks he can still win? The more he pushes, the more we will push back. Better for him to leave it up in the air without a legal ruling declaring his desired actions unconstitional.

    If he pushes more, we will push back and he will find himself wearing uncomfortable restrictions ordered by the SCOTUS.

  • I'm not sure why "court system" is in quotes in the headline, but I like how it implies the courts are a sham really when it comes to the government wanting to get its way to fight "terrorism".

  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @03:15PM (#51802141) Journal

    the justice department has become the terrorists.

  • "US Says It Would Use 'Court System' Again To Defeat Encryption"

    Yet, the failed. There is no "Again" since they did not use the court system to defeat the encryption. This is all just PR and spin propaganda about their failure and intimidation tactics. I'd love to see the Supreme Court reach down and nail this government vampire with a wooden stake to kill government overreach and abuse of powers. Dreaming...

  • They lied about just about everything this time around -- the number of phones they wanted unlocked, the fact that there wasn't any alternative to having Apple write some new software for it, whatever that shit was about a deadly cyber pathogen on the phone, and it still looked pretty bad for them. Clearly they just didn't lie enough. Next time they should say that if the phone's not unlocked, everyone will get super AIDs. Maybe that would be enough for them to get their way with their clearly illegal and u

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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