Tag Archives: backdoor

FBI Director Admits Apple’s ‘Backdoor’ Could Be Used for Other iPhones

While the FBI has formerly claimed that its order for Apple to create a “backdoor” into the iPhone was only to extract data from one specific phone used by a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, it appears that the agency is retreating from that argument as FBI Director James Comey admitted it could set a precedent for future cases.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tx.) questioned Comey on what would stop the FBI from using the “backdoor” software created by Apple on other phones if it wins the case.

“Apple develops the software and gives it to [you for] the phone, but that’s not the only phone in question, is that correct?” Poe said. “There are other phones that the FBI has in lawful possession that you can’t get into?”

Comey replied, “Sure, law enforcement increasingly encounters phones [in] investigations all over the place that can’t be unlocked.”

Poe asked how many other phones are in lawful possession of the FBI that the agency cannot extract data from with the current software. Comey said there were several, and he did not know the exact number.

“What would prevent the FBI from then taking that software and going at all of those other phones you have, and future phones you seize?” Poe asked.

“This seems like a small difference, but I think it’s actually kind of a big difference,” Comey replied. As he continued, he said that the software would only be used on iPhones in the same predicament as the one used the San Bernardino shooting suspect.

[pull_quote_center]The direction from the judge is not to have have Apple get us into the phone, it’s to have Apple turn off—by developing software that will tell the phone to turn off—the auto erase and the delay features, so that we can try and guess the password. So in theory, if you get another 5c running iOS9, which is what makes this relief possible, I mean it when I say it’s obsolete, because I understand that [with the iPhone 6] there is no door for us to even try to pick the lock on, so it wouldn’t work, but if there were phones in the same circumstances, then sure, you could ask for the same relief from a court to try and make effective the search warrant.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Apple Rejects Government Order to Create ‘Backdoor’ for iPhone]

Comey was later questioned by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fl.), who asked about whether the creation of a “backdoor” into the iPhone would make it susceptible to terrorists and child predators.

“When this tool is created, the fear is that it might be used by others and there are many who will try to get their hands on it, and will then put at risk our information on our devices,” Deutch said.

Comey noted, “There would be substantial risks around creating this software.”

[RELATED: Reality Check: Why McAfee Says FBI Really Wants To End Encryption, Not Hack Just One iPhone]

Deutch replied, “If that’s the case that it’s usable in more than one phone and it applies beyond there, then the public safety concerns that a lot of us have [about] if the public got access to our phones and our children’s phones, in that case, those are really valid, aren’t they?”

Comey said it is a valid concern, but claimed that it’s a question “we’re going to have litigation about is how reasonable is that concern,” adding “slippery slope arguments are always attractive.”

Comey acknowledged that the software may not be used for only the iPhone in the San Bernardino case, when he was questioned by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

“It won’t be a one-time request. It’ll set precedent for other requests from the FBI and any other law enforcement,” Goodlatte said.

“Sure, potentially,” Comey said.

[RELATED: Apple Policy Says They Won’t Unlock Devices for Government Requests]

Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell was later added to the hearing, and Comey said that in regards to the risks that would come with the creation of the software, “It’s not [Apple’s] job to watch out for public safety. That’s our job.”

Sewell told the committee that the company is not trying to look out for public safety as much as it is protecting its First Amendment rights to free speech and its Thirteenth Amendment rights to deny forced labor as a private citizen.

Sewell said the FBI’s argument that Apple is using the San Bernardino case as a marketing ploy “makes my blood boil.”

[pull_quote_center]This is not a marketing issue, that’s a way of demeaning our argument. We don’t take out billboards for our security. We don’t take out ads for our encryption. We’re doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do. To say that it’s a marketing ploy to to say that it’s about PR really diminishes a very serious conversation that should be about security of the American people.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: FBI Ordered Password Reset on San Bernardino Shooting Suspect’s iPhone]

As previously reported, the FBI admitted in February that it reset the password on the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Farook within 24 hours of the shooting.

Apple officials criticized the move, and reportedly claimed that changing the password revoked the company’s access into an auto-backup of the phone. Comey admitted that this was a “mistake,” and claimed that even if the FBI had acted differently, it still wouldn’t have been able to access everything on the phone without Apple’s help.

[RELATED: NY Judge: DoJ Cannot Force Apple to Extract Data from Locked iPhone in Drug Case]

The FBI is currently attempting to use the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify forcing Apple to extract data from iPhones in 12 different cases. In some cases, that involves using existing capabilities to pull contacts and calling information, but in other cases it would require Apple to create new software to break the iPhone’s encryption.

New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled Monday that in one of the cases, a criminal drug case in Brooklyn, the All Writs Act does not justify “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will.” While this ruling is not binding in any other court, it does mark the first time a federal judge has ruled in Apple’s favor.

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Facebook, Twitter Among Companies Supporting Apple in Fight Against FBI

The CEOs of several major tech companies have voiced their support for Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook after he openly opposed a federal order to “build a backdoor” into the iPhone.

Cook released a statement in response to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym’s order that Apple must help the FBI break into an encrypted iPhone that belonged to one of the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting.

[RELATED: Apple Rejects Government Order to Create ‘Backdoor’ for iPhone]  

Arguing that creating a way to break into an encrypted iPhone “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” Cook claimed that once “a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.”

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey voiced his support for Cook’s decision on Thursday, writing that he and his company “stand with Tim Cook and Apple,” and “thank him for his leadership.”

Facebook issued a statement late Thursday, in which it said it will “continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.”

[pull_quote_center]We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products.[/pull_quote_center]

Google CEO Sundar Pichai released a series of Tweets Wednesday in which he called Cook’s statement “important,” and said that forcing companies to enable hacking “could compromise users’ privacy” and “could be a troubling precedent.”

WhatsApp CEO and cofounder Jan Koum released a statement on Facebook saying that he “couldn’t agree more” with Cook’s statement, and he believes tech companies “must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set.”

[pull_quote_center]I have always admired Tim Cook for his stance on privacy and Apple’s efforts to protect user data and couldn’t agree more with everything said in their Customer Letter today. We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: McAfee: I Will Decrypt Information on the San Bernardino Phone for Free]

Computer programmer and 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate John McAfee called the FBI’s claim that the technology to decrypt an iPhone would only be used on the San Bernardino shooting suspect’s phone “a laughable and bizarre twist of logic,” and said his team would decrypt the information on the suspect’s phone for free.

“I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team,” McAfee said. “We will primarily use social engineering, and it will take us three weeks. If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.”

While White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest argued that the FBI is “simply asking for something that would have an impact on this one device,” Cook said he believes that once a way to decrypt the iPhone is created, “the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor,” Cook said. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

[RELATED: Bill Gates Sides with FBI, Downplays Order to Create ‘Backdoor’ for iPhone]

Follow Rachel Blevins on Facebook and Twitter.

NSA’s spy gear: ANT is a secret weapon that hacks electronics worldwide


From Samsung smartphones to Dell computers, Americans are being tracked by the NSA via electronic spy gear. Last week Snowden warned Americans in a Christmas message that big brother is watching. “We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go,” he said. Now Snowden has leaked the document that proves his claim.

One of the documents Snowden has reportedly leaked is a product catalog for spies and hackers at the NSA.

NSA hacksAccording to Der Spiegel, “a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT (Access Network Technology) has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry — including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell.”

The article claims that ANT specialists at the NSA’s department for Tailored Access Operations can remotely access, monitor, and manipulate data in electronics around the world. Electronic devices that cannot be attacked via the internet are intercepted and manually bugged. In some cases, the NSA actually intercepts packages to put “backdoors” in electronics.

Der Spiegel explains, “These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.”

ANT specialists can choose spy gear from a 50-page catalog to assist them in spying operations.

Some of the listed items are:

  • Rigged monitor cable – $30 – Allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor.
  • GSM base station – $40,000 – Mimics mobile phone tower and allows cell phone monitoring.
  • Computer bugging devices (50 pack) – $1 million – Disguised as normal USB plugs, it is capable of sending and receiving data via radio undetected.

SPIEGEL states that these American technology companies are not aware that the NSA has hacked their systems.

“Cisco does not work with any government to modify our equipment, nor to implement any so-called security ‘back doors’ in our products,” the company said in a statement.


Last week, Ben Swann, reported that U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled it was legal for the NSA to collect bulk meta-data of American’s phone records.

“One could argue that the ruling by a Federal Judge that the NSA spying program is legal was not only a horrible ruling, but based on his personal view and not grounded at all in law,” Swann said.

The lawsuit argues that the phone surveillance program violates both the First Amendment rights of free speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. At least three other lawsuits challenging bulk data collection are pending in other federal courts. Attorney Brett Max Kaufman said the ACLU will appeal Friday’s ruling.

The newly leaked documents are striking, though. As the NSA revelations keep on coming, it could provide more evidence for civil liberty lawsuits.