The List Of 12 Other Cases Where The DOJ Has Demanded Apple Help It Hack Into iPhones

from the no-precedent? dept

In our last post we noted that while FBI Director James Comey insists that it wasn’t trying to set a precedent, and this move was just about getting access to a single phone, law enforcement around the country was eagerly lining up behind the FBI to make similar requests. And… then last night it came out that even the DOJ is making similar requests in 12 other cases. And now, the full list of such cases has come out:

Now, it’s actually not entirely clear from this that all the cases really are the same. All of them do involve the DOJ using the All Writs Act to demand extra assistance from Apple — and we already knew about some of those earlier cases. And in most of them, the specifics of the “ask” is not actually public yet.

That is, it’s not known if they’re all asking for the same level of forcing Apple to build a new operating system that reduces security and enables the FBI to hack through a weak passcode. It’s safe to assume that’s probably the case in at least some of them.

Still, given all of this, the details of all of these cases were kept sealed until now. And, it’s been reported that Apple had asked for the San Bernardino case to be sealed as well, but the DOJ was the one who moved to make it public. And that lends tremendous weight to the idea that not only is the FBI desperately seeking to set a precedent, but it was waiting for a case with “good PR optics” to go public with, so that it could pull on some heart strings to get the public on its side. The high profile “terror” case in which a bunch of people were murdered in cold blood apparently was the perfect case.

But, yeah, once again, Director Comey was flat out lying when he claimed the FBI has no interest in setting a precedent.

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Comments on “The List Of 12 Other Cases Where The DOJ Has Demanded Apple Help It Hack Into iPhones”

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Apple making the next version impregnable even to themselves

That, I think, it ultimately a good thing.

I’m pretty sure that even the San Bernadino phone is impregnable (or more pedantically expensive to crack) provided that Farook had good password discipline.

Given the odds are nothing interesting is on that phone, he may well have not cared.

Whatever (profile) says:

I have to wonder why APPLE is the one moving to get these cases sealed. You have to think that the cat is getting out of the bag and they are very, very nervous about it.

Otherwise, they would want everything public to discredit the prosecutors at every turn. Sealing it says “I have something to hide”. What exactly do you think they are hiding?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am shocked that a mouth breather like you said something like this…

That or you copied one of my other anonymous posts paralleling this.

You are on to something either way. There are 2 huge problems with this case and in order.

#1. Judicial overreach of very epic proportions, because they are ordering a company to both do work they have no power to command, and compromise protective systems that will impact persons not even involved with the case that will with 100% certainty be used to cause collateral damage. The government agencies are well known liars and thieves. If they do not force Apple to completely turn over the work and source code they will just have one of their embedded employees steal the work, and begin to use it everywhere they damn well please.

#2. Apple has not said this work is impossible to accomplish. This means the encryption is likely to be reversible and like you said… DAMNING to their products and definitely seems to indicate that they do have something to hide.

Dkone says:

Re: Re:

I think that they are hiding the fact that the government is specifically spelling out how the encryption can be easily broken with the request. For how long has the gospel been that Apple can’t be hacked? Long enough for most people to believe it. If this weakening of the security can reasonably be done by Apple so that you can brute force a 4 digit pass code, then how long will it be until someone else can make the tool. Once that tool exists IT is the backdoor/master key.

I think that it can be done and that is why Apple wants these requests sealed. I am sure as hell the conversation at Apple right now is how do we make sure the next version of ios is bullet proof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not breaking encryption

So, just to be clear, they are not “breaking” the encryption. The Gov wants them to “update” the operating system on this particular phone so that instead of “10 attempts and then erase”, it allows unlimited attempts to log in. The “new” OS would also allow something like remote access attempts, so that the “breaking” of the password can be done via brute force from some other computer. They can’t really crack the password, other than trying all combos, and currently they only get 10 attempts before the phone erases itself.

Skip says:

Re: Re: Not breaking encryption

There is a huge difference between “breaking the encryption” and “removing the passcode attempt limitations”. Changing the OS to allow unlimited passcode attempts does nothing to the encryption on the phone. The phone will still be encrypted. It will just allow you to enter passcodes until your little heart gives up and it won’t erase the phone for too many of those attempts. Once the correct passcode is entered the phone will be unlocked, not decrypted. This means that the OS will allow the user to use the encrypted phone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Get it over with ... Calvin & Hobbes style

Dear Apple, just take the iPhone, completely and utterly botch the job of decrypting it, bricking it in the process. Then just give it back to the FBI saying “alas, we tried, but apparently it couldn’t be done”.

Remember, “If you do the job badly enough, sometimes you don’t get asked to do it again”.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Oops.

Just take the iPhone, completely and utterly botch the job of decrypting it, bricking it in the process.

As much as I would get supreme enjoyment from that outcome, the precedent would still be made that a company can be forced by a government agency to engineer the dissolution of their own security measures, and we would see an epidemic of that sort of abuse by law enforcement fishing for causes to arrest. (They did that lots before smart phones were encrypted.)

And then Apple would probably get some kind of criminal suit for maliciously sabotaging a police investigation.

If it weren’t for all that crap, Apple willfully bricking the phone would make my week.

Anonymous Coward says:

At what cost should Apple be allowed to say no?

What is the financial limit of forcing Apple, Google or any other manufacturer to build custom solutions to hacking their various devices? If each device and generation of device requires different tactics, then it is possible that Apple could be forced to build dozens of solutions at great cost to themselves. Should that be acceptable to society because eventually those costs will be passed to the consumer? Wouldn’t society be better off if those people building the hacks were allowed to build something beneficial, with market value?

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