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Apple, Inc Vs. US Government. One more test

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By Dan Bart | February 17, 2016 10:54 pm

Our privacy versus US security is at heart of Apple phone decrypt order

Most technology security experts, including many who have served in government, have said technical efforts to provide government access to encrypted devices inevitably degrades security for everyone. It is an argument that has been made since the 1990s, when the government tried and failed to force tech companies to incorporate a special chip into their products for surveillance purposes.

Apple, Inc Vs. US Government. One more test

Apple, Inc Vs. US Government. One more test

One more attempt. A court orders that Apple Inc help the U.S. government unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.  This is looks to be a crucial test of how far the government can go in forcing technology companies to help security and intelligence investigations.

Law enforcement agencies have for years faced off against tech firms and privacy advocates over their ability to monitor digital communications, and the government to date has largely lost the battle.

The phone stopped sending backup information to the iCloud server on Oct. 19, 2015, according to the government’s motion, and the FBI believes that Farook may have disabled that function in order to hide evidence. Any communications or data linked to the shooting after Oct. 19 would be accessible only through the device, according to the motion.

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to read the data on an iPhone 5C that had been used by Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out the shootings. The judge isn’t trying to get Apple to remove the encryption on the device altogether; rather, it is trying to get Apple to create software that bypasses the limit on the number of passcode attempts you can enter before the device auto-wipes. That would let investigators gain access to the device by trying every possible combination.

In its “A Message to Our Customers” Apple Inc says “the United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”

“The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe,” the letter continued, adding it could find “no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave his take on the standoff Wednesday,

“I agree 100% with the courts,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends.”

“I think security over all — we have to open it up, and we have to use our heads.”

 

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