The FBI has thrown a large wrinkle into its ongoing fight with Apple by requesting Tuesday's evidentiary hearing be vacated, or canceled. In a filing with the court, the government said an unidentified third party had stepped forward with a way of accessing the data on the iPhone of dead terrorist Syed Farook, and that if it works, Apple's help will no longer be needed.
The legal case between the FBI and Apple is very complex, both legally and technically. Yet, the impact of the court's decision and appeals could have a major impact on the rights and freedoms of every American. Here's a simple FAQ that explains the basics at hand in plain English.
Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States, strongly condemned the FBI's efforts to force Apple to weaken iPhone encryption. In an interview with NPR, Mr. Clarke said that the FBI was wrong on encryption and was more interested in setting a precedent in its efforts against Apple than it was in actually accessing a work iPhone used by a dead terrorist.
The FBI on Thursday filed a response to Apple's response to a court order mandating that Apple create a version of iOS—dubbed FBiOS or GovtOS in the media—shorn of several key security features. In that response, the FBI attempts to deconstruct Apple's arguments against the order, but in one area in particular, the government's attorneys play fast and loose with the facts in an apples-to-oranges comparison.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch hopes Apple will finally see the light and comply with a Federal Court order to create a passcode hackable version of the iPhone operating system for an FBI investigation. She said thousands of companies comply with similar orders every day, which seems a little off considering no company has ever been given an order compelling them to create something that doesn't already exist to be used as a forensic tool.
A federal court ruled on Monday that the FBI can not use the All Writs Act to compel Apple to bypass the security features of an iPhone belonging to an accused drug dealer in Manhattan.
FBI Director James Comey acknowledged during a House hearing on Thursday that a court order forcing Apple to create software that bypasses security measures in iOS could establish a precedent. This, despite claims from the get-go that the court order was about one device and once device only.
Apple has always marketed the strong security of iOS with features like the Secure Enclave and hardware encryption. Despite the acknowledged superiority of iOS security compared to Android, customers have granted Android a larger market share. How might Apple's new efforts affect that equation?
Apple is already working on new ways to improve iPhone and iCloud encryption that would make government demands for tools to hack into our personal data worthless. Currently, the FBI is trying to force Apple to create a passcode hackable version of iOS, and that very likely was the incentive to accelerate security improvement efforts.
Reuters released Wednesday the results of a poll that found more people—just less than half—supported Apple in its decision to fight a government order to create a backdoor in iOS. Those results contrast sharply to a Pew poll released earlier in the week that found a majority of people wanted Apple to do the government's bidding. The differences in those results come down in part to the way the questions were phrased.
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