CIA's Shrugtastic Response To Hacking Apple Security: 'It Is What It Is' And 'That's What We Do'

from the meh dept

We just had a story based on the Intercept breaking the fact that the CIA holds an annual hackathon (the CIA calls it a "Jamboree") to come up with new ways to hack secure systems, inviting in various contractors and government agencies. Much of the work is focused on hacking Apple's security, inserting backdoors and generally degrading security and encryption for everyone.

The CIA refused to comment on the Intercept's original story, but the reporters got former FTC official Steven Bellovin to sum it up as:
“Spies gonna spy,” says Steven Bellovin, a former chief technologist for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and current professor at Columbia University. “I’m never surprised by what intelligence agencies do to get information. They’re going to go where the info is, and as it moves, they’ll adjust their tactics. Their attitude is basically amoral: whatever works is OK.”
Now, "unnamed" anonymous CIA officials seem to be picking up where that shrugging comment left off. Talking to CNBC reporters, the CIA folks give similarly "meh" kinds of responses:
"That's what we do," the official said. "CIA collects information overseas, and this is focused on our adversaries, whether they be terrorists or other adversaries."
Except, of course, they don't just spy overseas. The CIA has done domestic spying as well, and the descriptions of the projects don't just impact people overseas. And then there's this one:
"There's a whole world of devices out there, and that's what we're going to do," the official said. "It is what it is."
It is what it is. That's someone who clearly doesn't care one bit about the negative consequences of attacking security and inserting backdoors that can harm everyone, just so long as they can also spy on people they don't like. You know, like the US Senate.

Filed Under: backdoors, cia, encryption, hackathon, jamboree, privacy, spying, surveillance
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    KitKat, 11 Mar 2015 @ 9:25am

    Corporate Personhood

    So here's a thought...

    In the US, corporations are legally people, which they claim grants them rights enjoyed by legal human citizens (rights which are being misused - I'm looking at you, ISPs who claim 1st Amendment means they have a right to censor or modify people's data on their networks). So from a perspective (not necessarily correct but analogous for our purposes), US companies are US citizens.

    So then how come hosting a jamboree to hack into an American company's stuff is more acceptable than hacking into John Doe's computer for the same reason? Now, you can say that they bought Apple hardware and hacked that, which is "okay"* because at that point they owned the hardware and not Apple. But if (haha if) they instead actually hacked into servers and stuff owned by Apple, Apple should be screaming massive 4th Amendment violations (corporate personhood and all, right?), just like John Doe would - and the government can't claim lack of standing on this one.

    This is all bullshit. Either companies are people, or they aren't** - the government doesn't get to pick and choose based on how it feels and what it thinks it can get away with, but right now the citizens are getting the short ends of both sticks.

    *As an aside, lots of companies are claiming that modifying stuff is illegal - phone unlocking, jailbreaking, modding, etc. There's been a decade or more of fighting over our rights to make harmless modifications (jailbreaking doesn't encourage piracy anymore than encryption encourages terrorism) to our devices. Yet while lobbyists/the government is trying to make stuff like device modification effectively illegal ('without permission' or whatever red herring platitude they insert), they themselves are doing exactly that - only their modifications are far from harmless. The government is once more not applying the same standards to itself as it does its citizens, just like when all those copyright maximalists were caught using copyrighted material or pirated software.

    **I'm inclined towards the latter, seeing as corporate personhood is pretty much a uniquely American thing. There are better tools to accomplish the same goals; corporate personhood isn't necessary..

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