Apple: Bill Barr is lying

“Thanks to the great work of the FBI — and no thanks to Apple — we were able to unlock Alshamrani’s phones” — U.S. Attorney General Barr

From Apple PR:

The terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida was a devastating and heinous act. Apple responded to the FBI’s first requests for information just hours after the attack on December 6, 2019 and continued to support law enforcement during their investigation. We provided every piece of information available to us, including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts, and we lent continuous and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York over the months since.

On this and many thousands of other cases, we continue to work around-the-clock with the FBI and other investigators who keep Americans safe and bring criminals to justice. As a proud American company, we consider supporting law enforcement’s important work our responsibility. The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security. (emphasis mine)

It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.

My take: Unlocking an individual iPhone is just math. It takes time and powerful computers. Undermining the idea of strong encryption requires more subtle tools.

See also: Apple 3.0 San Bernardino archives.

9 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/iphone-spyware-lets-cops-log-suspects-passcodes-when-cracking-doesn-n1209296

    “It’s also the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and Apple. The company famously refused to unlock an iPhone for the FBI in the case of the San Bernardino terrorist shooting, arguing that doing so would make its phones less secure.“

    I really don’t get why even somewhat intelligent people don’t understand the difference between “won’t” and “can’t”! From this I draw the conclusion they do NOT want to mess up their narrative with inconvenient facts. Incompetent journalism like this is a significant contributor to our current political mess. One or two errors in stories that you can detect makes you Much less trusting of the rest of the stuff from that media operation.

    11
    May 19, 2020
    • Fred Stein said:
      Thanks for the link. I recommend reading the whole article which has much more useful info.

      And yes, the” won’t vs. can’t” issue is big concern. The public at large needs to understand this and the article mis-informs.

      3
      May 19, 2020
  2. Joe Murphy said:
    @ “One or two errors in stories that you can detect makes you Much less trusting of the rest of the stuff”

    David, I agree. Misstatements, spoken or written, creates doubt. Not only in that instance, call for ongoing vigilance. I call it my roach theory: How often do we see one roach? I suspect we don’t. When we see one roach, do we think there’s likely more?

    @ “I recommend reading the whole article which has much more useful info.”

    Fred, I agree. It’s a good read. We tend to think of the government as our friend and accept at face value. Our country’s founders knew better. I’m not criticizing our government, I think it’s the best there is. But, it’s led by people. People make mistakes and some have hidden agendas. So be aware, question and make own decisions.

    Thank you PED. I truly enjoy the 30. experience.

    1
    May 19, 2020
  3. John Konopka said:
    Bill Barr lies to the American people! Oh say it isn’t so! LOL

    1
    May 19, 2020
  4. Brian Loftus said:
    His statement is true. Apple did not help the FBI unlock the phone. This is not a bad thing. Same position as Eric Holder and I am sure will continue to be the position of any head of the FBI and Justice for a long time.
    If we have learned anything, is the abuse of spy powers on American citizens is even worse than most of us imagined.

    1
    May 19, 2020
  5. David Emery said:
    Here’s something to consider: Apparently the tool the FBI used on the phone was a brute force password guesser. This requires physical contact/ownership of the phone. That might well be the one acceptable mode.

    Sure, there’s nothing to prevent Bad Guys ™ from grabbing a phone. But as a friend who’s an expert on this points out, it’s probably impossible to fully engineer a device from physical attacks.

    So this would argue for the best security against attacks where the attacker does not have physical possession of the device, but would allow governments who can legally seize devices to crack them. (Of course, using “erase the phone after N consecutive failed passwords” would be a counter to the brute force password crackers.)

    0
    May 20, 2020

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