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Apple update creates roadblock to search warrants

Apple update creates roadblock to search warrants

No more passcode access for police–or Apple.

Apple’s latest update to its OS includes a lot of neat bells and whistles, but one key upgrade has privacy advocates cheering.

This latest reboot has eliminated Apple’s longstanding capability to access users’ iPhone and iPad passcodes; in the past, this allowed Apple to both help users remember forgotten passcodes—and comply with search warrants. iOS 8, however, will actually prevent Apple from accessing user passcodes.

Via the Washington Post:

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

As the new operating system becomes widely deployed over the next several weeks, the number of iPhones and iPads that Apple is capable of breaking into for police will steadily dwindle to the point where only devices several years old — and incapable of running iOS 8 — can be unlocked by Apple.

This update, however, does not prevent Apple from accessing data via iCloud. Apple will still have a legal obligation to give police access to any data (pictures, music, e-mails, text messages, etc.) that is backed up to the cloud. (You can turn off this setting on your individual device.)

Surprising absolutely no one, law enforcement agencies have put on their “concerned face” over the new changes:

Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, called the move by Apple “problematic,” saying it will contribute to the steady decrease of law enforcement’s ability to collect key evidence — to solve crimes and prevent them. The agency long has publicly worried about the “going dark” problem, in which the rising use of encryption across a range of services has undermined government’s ability to conduct surveillance, even when it is legally authorized.

“Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” Hosko said. He suggested that it would take a major event, such as a terrorist attack, to cause the pendulum to swing back toward giving authorities access to a broad range of digital information.

Mr. Hosko’s criticism ignores the fact that police can still secure a warrant (such inconvenience!) and seize an individual phone they suspect of containing incriminating material. This is a matter of privacy: there’s no reason for Apple to have access to data that the data owner chooses not to store on Apple-owned storage space.

The fact that this may cause inconvenience to law enforcement is a moot point; there’s no law in existence that requires consumers to automatically present their personal data for convenient inspection by the government. “Going dark” isn’t a crime, and those who choose to keep their data to themselves are not de facto suspects in the ongoing War on Things and Such.

As private tech evolves, so does that of law enforcement. If being able to break into a suspect’s phone is critical, they’ll develop better tools for the job.

And then they’ll get a warrant.


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Mr. Hosko’s criticism ignores the fact that police can still secure a warrant (such inconvenience!) and seize an individual phone they suspect of containing incriminating material.”

Okay, they take the phone from you, but without the password they can’t get in unless you give them the password which, as I understand matters, they can’t force you to do.

But I’m not too certain of that given this case,

    JayDick in reply to pfg. | September 19, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Interesting link. I wonder if the Supreme Court has rule on this type of situation. In addition, I’d wager that NSA-type capability could probably get in despite a strong password, although it might take a while.

This is good news for when the suspect is someone I support politically!

This means that the police can’t access Sarah!’s iphone to get video of the drunken brawl she and her brood started after tumbling out of a stretch Hummer. Has anyone demanded the juvenile files for these thugs?

    ConradCA in reply to Tex Detroit. | September 20, 2014 at 4:20 am

    You should be more interested in all the scandals and crimes committed by Tyrant Obama the Liar and Hillary the Liar. Tyrant Obama the Liar is violating the constitution over and over. While Hillary the Liar failed to do her duty to ensure that the Ambassador’s pleas for security in Libya were satisfied. Then they both lied to coverup their crimes and incompetence.

The Return of the Dread Pirate Roberts and the Silk Road!

Whatever…this is just prawns for the proles.

Programming code is NEVER so clean there isn’t a hack if not an outright backdoor with the keys already in the government’s hands.

Plus, if Apple managed pull-off impossibly clean code and used an encryption stack that the government didn’t already have the key to, every copy of iOS8 would be subject to ITAR restrictions so onerous that iOS8 devices could barely be sold INSIDE the US, much less elsewhere….like Apple would do THAT!!!

The lack of bleating about that tells anyone paying attention that the fix is already in and Apple’s leak is just more BS for the lowest-common-denominator individual, or their loyal followers…but I repeat myself.

Yeah, with a proper judge-signed warrant they can demand the password from you and expect a good faith response.

But then you know they’ve searched your phone. The disadvantage is that you know – they can’t just do it behind your back, which is a huge advantage for law enforcement.. for reasons good or bad. Certainly such an ability is open to abuse.

    ConradCA in reply to JBourque. | September 20, 2014 at 4:29 am

    If I am subject to a criminal or civil case and the data on my phone will make me lose I would have a hard time remembering my password.

    Isn’t it only 4 digits which is only 10,000 passwords? If they could automate the password entry it wouldn’t take that long.

Since they’re giving the authorities the ability to turn off your phone, I’d take this announcement with several large grains of salt.

As a former LEO, I thank Apple. Federal law enforcement has become corrupt in many cases (DOJ, IRS, ATF, and others). LE must operate with absolute integrity and honesty if I am to trust them. They have become political and corrupt in too many ways at the federal level. They can not be trusted as a group until they earn that trust like each one of us must do personally every day. To the honest local, state, and federal cops–sorry about that. You need to clean house.

I see little reason to disbelieve Apple on this claim.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn Apple is in bed with the US federal intelligence and law enforcement and has provided a secret back door to the goverment in trade for the gov’s cooperation in convincing customers the data is irretrievable.

It was just a few years ago I’d be called a paranoid conspiracy nut to suggest that the IRS, DOJ, etc., would coerce a corporation like Apple into this, but it doesn’t sound so crazy nowadays, does it?

IIRC most of Apples electronics are made in China. China will have their own passcodes and backdoors.

    ConradCA in reply to genes. | September 20, 2014 at 4:34 am

    The firmware and operating system are under the control of Apple. They verify that the firmware is correct by loading an AP that the firmware and operating system is correct.

I believe Apple is now encrypting things like email in IOS8. Makes it even harder to search the phone.

This also means that if you forget your passcode you are screwed if you kept anything important just on your phone.

Of course, iCloud will have it all anyway…..

The government may have a right to demand your files, but they don’t have a right to understand them. If you invented a language only you could understand, and then created a document in that language, the government would have no authority to order you to translate, for its benefit, what you wrote. The existence of data, messages, notes, documents, etc., and the citizens’ right to create, transmit, and store them, does not imply the government has a right to understand them, nor does it imply the authority to force the citizen to make them understandable, even if it can lawfully seize them. It has generally been presumed that the government has a right to understand the documents it seizes, but only because it has never before had to deal with documents that are (literally) undecipherable. Just because the citizen now has an ability that was heretofore unavailable to him does not mean that the government similarly acquires authority to breach what the citizen desire to keep hidden.

As far as Apple’s obligations go, they would be required to turn over the files when required by a warrant to do so, but would be under no obligation to make them any more decipherable than the documents’ owner has made them to Apple. Apple has provided the technological means for citizens to make their data undecipherable, and that is not illegal. It’s questionable whether it could be made so, and, if it could, who could be prevented from creating such documents, if anyone could be at all.