Former NSA director opposes iOS backdoor, but leans towards FBI in iPhone unlock debate

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On Monday, a former director of the U.S. National Security Agency -- Michael Hayden -- took a middleground stance on the Apple/FBI encryption debate, supporting the FBI in the short term while opposing a universal backdoor in devices.




"In this specific case, I'm trending toward the government, but I've got to tell you in general I oppose the government's effort, personified by FBI Director Jim [James] Comey," Hayden explained to USA Today. "Jim would like a back door available to American law enforcement in all devices globally. And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security, even though it might make Jim's job a bit easier in some specific circumstances."

In the case of an iPhone 5c belonging to dead San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, the FBI is demanding that Apple remove the limit on passcode attempts for Farook's phone, rather than decrypt it. Comey has insisted that the agency's interest is limited in scope -- Apple, however, has argued that giving the FBI a workaround would allow it and others to break into any iPhone, and is actively fighting the order.

Though he left the NSA in 2005, Hayden is responsible for establishing some of the mass surveillance apparatus that would later be exposed by people like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including a domestic phonecall database.

In the interview, Hayden argued that while mandatory backdoors would be extremely useful for the NSA and other intelligence agencies, the U.S. is a "safer, more secure nation" without them, since other parties would take advantage. The latter view has also been expressed by Cook.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    cornchipjbdragonnolamacguyewtheckmancommon sense 65palomine
  • Reply 2 of 20
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    He's simply making the pragmatic point that such a back door would make some investigations easier for law enforcement agencies, who are tasked with stopping this kind of event. I don't think that one should criticize the FBI too much for asking for all the assistance that they can get. It is up to the courts to protect Apple, and others, from undue burden as a result.
    liketheskybaconstang
  • Reply 4 of 20
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,771member
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Personally I believe Apple probably has their own back door regardless of what they say publicly. Plug the lightning port into a Mac and run a couple shell commands with a 4096 bit key. Voila! 
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 5 of 20
    metrixmetrix Posts: 245member
    volcan said:
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Personally I believe Apple probably has their own back door regardless of what they say publicly. Plug the lightning port into a Mac and run a couple shell commands with a 4096 bit key. Voila! 
    What would be the purpose of Apple having a back door? If Apple can get in than probably someone else can too, so you build a lock where the key is thrown away.
    mwhitejbdragonirelandjony0common sense 65
  • Reply 6 of 20
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,567member
    volcan said:
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Personally I believe Apple probably has their own back door regardless of what they say publicly. Plug the lightning port into a Mac and run a couple shell commands with a 4096 bit key. Voila! 
    Personally, I don't believe that, and pragmatically, it is risky for Apple to have such.

    Tim's a Boy Scout; his belief system is front and center. I believe him when he states that they don't, but he also acknowledges that there are potential vulnerabilities that would be exposed if Apple did have to comply, however unlikely that would be.

    Trust James Comey; not so much. 

    Two points;

    Hayden did exceed his authority, and Snowden was able to break into the NSA's data, albeit from the inside. There aren't enough safeguards in place with the best of intentions, yet Comey wants to create a backdoor. Once the U.S. decides to do that, every nation on earth will attempt to attack U.S. citizen's smartphones; some attempts will succeed.
    jbishop1039bsimpsenmwhitejbdragonirelandbaconstanglostkiwipscooter63ewtheckmancommon sense 65
  • Reply 7 of 20

    No gov’t has ever been capable of keeping a secret, no matter how vital to national security. That is a fact, not an opinion.

    So far the argument has been about protecting the sensitive information of private citizens. But that's not the half of it.

    So what happens when ISIS, Al-Qeda, or some resourceful jihadi with a bad attitude gets their hands on the encryption key? And accesses a misplaced FBI phone, or a NSA agent's phone, or a CIA agent’s phone, or a prosecutor's phone, or a military officer's phone?


    bcodeewtheckmanbuzdots
  • Reply 8 of 20
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,567member
    I'm waiting for the inevitable malware (it's probably already out there) which cleans out your financial accounts, funds terrorists, and implicates you in terrorist plots.
    jbdragonirelandbaconstangjony0palomine
  • Reply 9 of 20
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,771member
    tmay said:

    Personally, I don't believe that, and pragmatically, it is risky for Apple to have such.
    Edit: I just found this article which has a good explanation.

    http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/18/no-apple-has-not-unlocked-70-iphones-for-law-enforcement/
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 10 of 20
    And let's not forget that Apple's compliance isn't going to help the government catch terrorists either.  They might be able to get something off of this phone, but as soon as it becomes clear that Apple can be threatened into cracking iPhones, the terrorists will simply switch over to using an encryption product not made by Apple.  There are tons available all over the Internet available for every computing platform that exists.

    What will the government do then?  Outlaw all forms of encryption?  Which will simply cause the criminals and terrorists to use illegal software.  So they'll be nice and secure while the law-abiding population no longer has any privacy.

    Of course, there are plenty in Washington who want exactly that, even though they are loudly insisting otherwise right now.
    irelandliketheskybaconstangradarthekatlostkiwi
  • Reply 11 of 20
    volcan said:
    tmay said:

    Personally, I don't believe that, and pragmatically, it is risky for Apple to have such.
    Apple has had a key in the past and they have previously unlocked iPhones. Do you think Tim made them throw the key away? Perhaps, since they are claiming they don't have one, but that seems unusual to me since historically they have honored requests. At one point I read that the backlog of requests from law enforcement was months long.
    Before iOS 8 they kept the keys for all of the phones (not a master key). In iOS 8 and beyond, they no longer keep the keys. Not about throwing away what they had, it is about not keeping the new keys when devices are encrypted. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 12 of 20
    volcan said:
    tmay said:

    Personally, I don't believe that, and pragmatically, it is risky for Apple to have such.
    Apple has had a key in the past and they have previously unlocked iPhones.
    Nope, they never unlocked a single iPhone. What you mean is, they extracted content out of a locked iPhone. It could be extracted because the data was not encrypted. Since iOS 8 all data on an iPhone is encrypted and Apple does not have the key. The problem is, there is a lot of false and/or bad information flying around. The media mostly can't get their facts straight, because the "journalists" just do not have enough technical knowledge to explain it to people who have clearly no idea how anything works. Try to explain what is going on with the FBI and Apple to your mother and you will see, why the government is behaving like it does. Most people there are over 60 and happy if they manage to check their emails.
    icoco3liketheskylostkiwijony0
  • Reply 13 of 20
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    volcan said:
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Personally I believe Apple probably has their own back door regardless of what they say publicly. Plug the lightning port into a Mac and run a couple shell commands with a 4096 bit key. Voila! 
    Except if that were the case they'd have simply "discovered" the phone wasn't actually locked (they get asked to "open" phones that aren't) and VOILA! hand the FBI the information and avoid all this crapstorm.

    They don't. OR they lied in federal court depositions on a Brooklyn court case involving accessing an iPhone. That's both a felony and lots and lots of federal prison time.
    edited February 2016 baconstang
  • Reply 14 of 20
    Another bullshitter, they're the same thing. The backdoor is the legal precedent.

  • Reply 15 of 20
    volcan said:
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Personally I believe Apple probably has their own back door regardless of what they say publicly. Plug the lightning port into a Mac and run a couple shell commands with a 4096 bit key. Voila! 
    So, basically a dongle; you do know this has to interface with software to get the info, or decrypt the data, if there is a dongle, there is a vulnerability.
    That's why I have never seen one that had not been hacked and they have mostly fallen out of favor.

    They can work if there is hardware pairing between parts (like the secure enclave with touch ID), but then Apple would  to be able to make a hardware key for every phone they sell and it would complexify the phone side, having it connected in the something like the secure enclave (but different) would be the wa to do it. The vulnerability wiould then be the interface with this circuit which needs to be tamper proof.

    But, then this repository of keys is of very high value and needs absolute protection. And it's obvious every tom dick and harry in law enforcement all around the world will want to unlock people's phone. The greater the number of people who have access to the repository, the more unsafe it gets. And since those are hardware keys, making them is less than trivial. Apple would have to run a large department just to service demands like that of police.

    So, without an east in, it becomes a bitch for Apple to manage and since crooks now think the police have access to their phone all the time, they simply use burner phones or cheap android phones with third party encryption that they destroy often.
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 16 of 20
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    genovelle said:
    The US being a safer nation without back doors comment at the end sound more like leaning toward Apple. 
    Yeah, that’s what the title of the article stated...
  • Reply 17 of 20
    focherfocher Posts: 640member
    Apple will close the current proposed custom firmware method with iOS 10 or 11 and then A10 or A11 chip. Who knows how the legal process will play this out in this immediate, but it will eventually all come to a head. Either countries will legally mandate a method for access or they will accept that smartphone data will become so secure as to prevent breaking into the device.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Another idiot who just got proven wrong, like we knew they would; See WSJ article about what the DOJ wants to do.
  • Reply 19 of 20
    I wonder why (and this is mostly because nobody is telling us the full story here) the government investigators can't copy the entire (encrypted) content from the phone's flash file system onto a proper computer and hack that.  They can try and guess a bazillion codes without worrying about if it will self destruct because they can do it separately from a running copy of iOS (or failing that, they can run iOS in a simulator against a read-only file system, or failing that, they can restore their file system every 10 attempts.)

    It seems to me that the government doesn't need Apple to do anything.  They just want to take a shortcut and they're whining that Apple is going to make them do it the hard way.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    There's one question that no one seems to have asked.
    If as the FBI says, this case is all about justice and the victims, why didn't they do the one thing that would probably have given them all they say they want?
    After the event, they took possession of the phone.
    [scenario]
    Ok, we have the phone, is it working? - yes.
    Great, can we unlock it? Anybody? - no.
    Who made the phone? - Apple.
    Right, we're talking to them already and have a contact. Get them on the phone for advice on how to break this thing...NOW.

    Let's say that took 5mins at most.
    This would seem to be the obvious first step. Can anyone really argue they couldn't have spared 5 mins in the 'less than 24 hour period' before they reset the password to do that? If justice is so important. Or that not doing so actually delayed the pursuit of justice by several months? Possibly forever?
    I went to the university bookshop and found...
    Digital Evidence and Computer Crime: Forensic Science, Computers and the Internet.
    Third Edition
    Eoghan Casey

    Chapter 7: Handling a Digital Crimescene
    Where, like other crime scenes, preservation of original unaltered or contaminated evidence - is paramount. It's so called Standard Practice. 
    But they didn't.
    And now we know why.
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