Argument over strong encryption reaches boiling point as Apple, Microsoft rebuff court orders for da

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2015
A long-running debate concerning recent advances in consumer data encryption came to a head this summer when Apple rebuffed a Justice Department court order demanding access to iMessage transcripts, causing some in the law enforcement community to call for legal action against the company.




Over the summer Apple was asked to furnish real-time iMessage communications sent between two suspects in an investigation involving guns and drugs, reports The New York Times. The company said it was unable to provide such access as iMessage is protected by end-to-end encryption, a stance taken in similar cases that have over the past few months punctuated a strained relationship between the tech sector and U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Sources said a court action is not in the cards for Apple just yet, but another case involving Microsoft could set precedent for future cases involving strong encryption. Microsoft is due to argue its case in a New York appellate court on Wednesday after being taken to task for refusing to serve up emails belonging to a drug trafficking suspect. As the digital correspondence was housed in servers located in Dublin, Ireland, the company said it would relinquish the emails only after U.S. authorities obtained proper documentation from an Irish court.

Government agencies have posed hypothetical scenarios in which strong encryption systems, while good for the consumer, hinder or thwart time-sensitive criminal investigations. It appears those theories are being borne out in the real world.

Further confusing matters is a seemingly non-committed White House that has yet to decide on the topic either way. Apple and other tech companies are pressing hard to stop the Obama administration from agreeing to policy that would, in their eyes, degrade the effectiveness of existing data encryption technologies.

As for Apple, while some DOJ and FBI personnel are advocating to take the company to court, other officials argue that such an action would only serve to undermine the potential for compromise. Apple and other tech firms have privately voiced interest in finding a common ground, The Times reports. To that end, the publication notes Apple did indeed hand over a limited number of messages stored in iCloud pertaining to this summer's investigation.

For its part, Apple is standing firm against government overtures calling for it to relinquish data stored on its servers. CEO Tim Cook outlined his thoughts on data privacy in an open letter to customers last year and came down hard on unlawful government snooping earlier this year.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 112
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    OK, these two paragraphs make no sense:

    First:
    Over the summer Apple was asked to furnish real-time iMessage communications sent between two suspects in an investigation involving guns and drugs, reports The New York Times. [B]The company said it was unable to provide such access as iMessage is protected by end-to-end encryption[/B]

    But then:
    Apple and other tech firms have privately voiced interest in finding a common ground, The Times reports. To that end, the publication notes [B]Apple did indeed hand over a limited number of messages stored in iCloud pertaining to this summer's investigation.[/B]

    :\ :err:
  • Reply 2 of 112
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

    OK, these two paragraphs make no sense:



    Maybe Apple gave them the encrypted garbage data. “Have at it, guys!”

  • Reply 3 of 112

    they didnt give them real time data on imessage but it seems that the people or persons saved the conversion on icloud which is what they gave them.

  • Reply 4 of 112
    What is the legal basis for making a company weaken its encryption? Do companies have to facilitate investigations? I'm not a lawyer. I haven't seen an article that suggests why Apple or Microsoft need to do this. I do know that it is a fact that the tools most forensic analysts use can't crack the current iPhone encryption. A buddy of mine in that field tells me Backberrys are very easy BTW.

    US constitutional rights come at a cost. The cost in not just soldiers lost defending the country. The cost is hindered or thwarted time-sensitive criminal investigations. That isn't a problem with the Constitution, that is necessarily how it is. I know how it feels the data is so close, maybe in the investigator's hand but s/he can't get to it.

    If they're made to weaken it (and presumably this will be public knowledge too), criminals, terrorists, will use something else. If you can just keep a lot of those folks using Android, I assume the investigators will have all they need.
  • Reply 5 of 112
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member

    Maybe Apple gave them the encrypted garbage data. “Have at it, guys!”
    That certainly wouldn't be "trying to find common ground".
  • Reply 6 of 112
    I thought the same initially but "messages stored in iCloud" doesn't necessarily mean iMessage. It could mean email via iCloud accounts as that definitely doesn't use end to end encryption and will be accessible by Apple (unless the participants have set up S/MIME using their own email certificates which sadly all but a handful of security experts are unlikely to do).

    It is therefore possible that all iMessages are indeed protected by end to end encryption and not accessible by anybody, including Apple, as they claim.

    Alternatively, this could just be a cover story to encourage all the real baddies to use iMessage when all the traffic is actually routed via the FBI, NSA, GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 before hitting Apple's servers...
  • Reply 7 of 112
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    OK, these two paragraphs make no sense:



    First:

    Over the summer Apple was asked to furnish real-time iMessage communications sent between two suspects in an investigation involving guns and drugs, reports The New York Times. The company said it was unable to provide such access as iMessage is protected by end-to-end encryption



    But then:

    Apple and other tech firms have privately voiced interest in finding a common ground, The Times reports. To that end, the publication notes Apple did indeed hand over a limited number of messages stored in iCloud pertaining to this summer's investigation.



    image image



    The agency asked for real-time iMessage communications. Those stored in iCloud are no longer real-time, but old messages that are part of the backup. 

  • Reply 8 of 112
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

    That certainly wouldn't be "trying to find common ground".



    They can take their common ground and stuff it, really.

  • Reply 9 of 112
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member

    The agency asked for real-time iMessage communications. Those stored in iCloud are no longer real-time, but old messages that are part of the backup. 

    That data isn't encrypted?
  • Reply 10 of 112
    irelandireland Posts: 17,746member
    Decriminalise drugs FFS. I personally don't really take drugs, but I think it's no business of mine what others take. Whole thing is ridiculous. The war on drugs was lost 1000 years ago. Time for a new approach. I applaud tech companies who try to protect our data.

    FileVault on the other hand is another matter. It has seriously bugs and shouldn't be turned on by default in Yosemite in a million years. I wasted my whole night the other night setting up my niece's new MBA because of the stupid thing. Enabled by default? No way. In the end I had to wipe the drive and start over and uncheck the box during setup.
  • Reply 11 of 112
    I hope the entire industry rallies behind Apple and Microsoft on this arrogant governmental overreach.

    I knew that Apple would push back. Major kudos to Microsoft.
  • Reply 12 of 112
    It's called the 4th Amendment DOJ. You either get a warrant or GTFO. This fear-mongering isn't working and the people see through the bullshit you're trying to sell.

    Love my Country, despise my Government
  • Reply 13 of 112
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post





    That data isn't encrypted?

     

    Backup data can be recovered with your password. You can reset your password if you forget it. Put those two facts together.

     

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lord Amhran View Post



    It's called the 4th Amendment DOJ. You either get a warrant or GTFO. 

     

    Wrong. That's not the issue here. Apple couldn't get real time data even if you did have a warrant. It's going to end up like Bill Clinton's CALEA which mandates backdoors, a.k.a law enforcement access.

  • Reply 14 of 112
    We're all very lucky, as free people. Apple is "Too big to control." Apple has the power and customer base to take a stand here, thus defining the legal and philosophical parameters of personal privacy as a universal civil right for all people. It could have been a different, less conscientious company, but it's not. The original personal computer dream of free/affordable information and communication for all is nigh and Apple's stand for personal privacy is nothing less than a stand for personal freedom. Any human future that includes access to knowledge, collective exploration of novel ideas and moving the species forward via technology, requires privacy. This is huge.
  • Reply 15 of 112
    Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

    It's going to end up like Bill Clinton's CALEA which mandates backdoors, a.k.a law enforcement access.




    And Apple will say no. Or at least they’d better.

  • Reply 16 of 112
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     



    And Apple will say no. Or at least they’d better.


     

    Law is the law and Apple isn't in Congress.

  • Reply 17 of 112
    The governments position is weak at best, and not fully thought out. And, it suggest there is no other way for them to prove guilt.

    Following the progression the government is suggesting, the communications will be weakened for all people in order to potentially catch a few - while, the people doing wrong will switch to another means of communication,

    This coercion attempt reminds me of a modern day version of McCarthyism.
  • Reply 18 of 112
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,166member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    OK, these two paragraphs make no sense:



    First:

    Over the summer Apple was asked to furnish real-time iMessage communications sent between two suspects in an investigation involving guns and drugs, reports The New York Times. The company said it was unable to provide such access as iMessage is protected by end-to-end encryption



    But then:

    Apple and other tech firms have privately voiced interest in finding a common ground, The Times reports. To that end, the publication notes Apple did indeed hand over a limited number of messages stored in iCloud pertaining to this summer's investigation.



    image image



    There was an article a while back about this. Apple cannot access iMessage because of the end to end encryption but they can access iCloud backup. These iCloud backup includes iMessages stored on the device when the backup happened.

  • Reply 19 of 112
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,496member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

     

     

    Law is the law and Apple isn't in Congress. Are you supporting the Kentucky clerk who's in jail right now?


    That reference is out of line. The Kentucky clerk used moral issues for not following the law. Apple is following the law and the constitution, the FBI, NSA, and law enforcement are not. Getting Congress to change the law would have to pass the Supreme Court because it would be held unconstitutional. 

  • Reply 20 of 112
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    That reference is out of line. The Kentucky clerk used moral issues for not following the law. Apple is following the law and the constitution, the FBI, NSA, and law enforcement are not. Getting Congress to change the law would have to pass the Supreme Court because it would be held unconstitutional. 


     

    Incorrect. Learn about CALEA which has been law for 20 years and applies to phone, VOIP like Skype, Internet and cell phone providers. Simply, all of those communication providers must have lawful intercept (wiretap) capabilities. Hardly unconstitutional when it applies after a warrant is obtained.

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