Wednesday, during the International Conference on Cyber Security in Mahattan, FBI forensic expert Stephen Flatley called Apple ‘evil geniuses and jerks.’ He says that iOS encryption makes it harder for the FBI to do its job, and would rather throw the safety of millions of people out the window (via PatentlyApple).
Evil Geniuses and Jerks
During his talk, he noted that cracking iPhone passwords “just went from two days to two months,” and asked, “At what point is it just trying to one up things and at what point is it to thwart law enforcement? Apple is pretty good at evil genius stuff.”
By “evil genius stuff” he of course refers to mathematics. That’s what encryption is, just a bunch of fancy math. The FBI isn’t stupid. It knows that iOS encryption makes peoples’ data safe. But the agency is trying to manipulate and distract the public.
From what? Well, right now Congress is approving an amendment to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This is the bill that intelligence agencies have abused in order to illegally place Americans everywhere under surveillance.
FISA was created in 2008 to allow warrantless surveillance of any foreign person that an American intelligence agency deems a threat. But agencies also use it to spy on Americans through two loopholes: backdoor search and “about collection.”
Backdoor search is a sneaky way to monitor Americans’ electronic communications. It lets intelligence agencies collect and view the communications of any American who has been in contact with a foreign target.
About collection lets agencies monitor Americans who mentions information about a foreign target in electronic communications. This means that if an American includes an email address, phone number, or other data about a foreign target in a communication to another American, their communications are subject to surveillance even if the person isn’t in actual contact with the foreign target.
When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court looked at about collection more closely, the NSA voluntarily abandoned the practice in 2017. But the new amendment to FISA would reverse the NSA’s decision and codify about collection into law.
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the amendment with a vote of 256 to 164. 191 Republicans and 65 Democrats voted for it; 119 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted against it. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to vote on it.
FISA expires on January 19 so it’s being fast-tracked to approval. The Senate is likely to vote on it next week. There’s still time for Americans to voice opinions on the matter. Instead though, the FBI wants to beat a dead horse.