Apple participated in search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2016
As part of testimony related to the ongoing San Bernardino iPhone encryption debate, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell on Tuesday told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the company offered technical assistance to investigators searching for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after the plane was declared missing in 2014.




Sewell offered the comments as background to a question posed by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) concerning Apple's response procedures in the event of a perceived emergency. average response time to

"In the instance that there's a terrorist that has put the location of a nuclear bomb on the phone, and he dies, how long would take Apple to develop the technology to tell us where that nuclear bomb was, or would Apple not be able to develop that technology to tell us in a short period time," Richmond asked.

As per protocol, Apple would first conduct a top-down audit of all data surrounding a particular phone, which in this hypothetical situation is a device loaded with highly sensitive information vital to national security. While not specifically mentioned, Sewell is likely referring to iPhone backups and other relevant data stored in the cloud, information the company has ready access to as is willing to hand over to government official if served a proper warrant.

Sewell notes the past 25 years have brought great change to the digital security landscape, especially with respect to what data law enforcement agencies can access. However, Apple does have procedures in place to handle emergency situations.

"When the Malaysia Airline[s] went down -- within one hour of that plane being declared missing -- we had Apple operators cooperating with telephone providers all over the world, with the airlines and with the FBI to try to find a ping, to try to find some way we could locate where that plane was," Sewell said.

These emergency protocols could also be activated in a missing persons case. Earlier in the hearing Richmond referenced the murder of Brittney Mills, a Baton Rouge resident shot in her apartment last year seemingly by someone she knew. Investigators attempted to mine Mills' iPhone 5 for evidence but were thwarted by an iOS 8 passcode and full disk encryption. Apple is embroiled in a controversial debate over a similar matter linked to an iPhone used by San Bernardino terror suspect Syed Rizwan Farook.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,246member
    The longer this debate is drawn out, the better for Apple. Though the know-nothings will continue to see Apple as pro-terrorist, the more thoughtful decision makers will get the full story and be moved toward Apple's position. 
    latifbp
  • Reply 2 of 19
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 342member
    The longer this debate is drawn out, the better for Apple. Though the know-nothings will continue to see Apple as pro-terrorist, the more thoughtful decision makers will get the full story and be moved toward Apple's position. 
    Are the thoughtful decision makers in Congress? My bet is absolutely not.
    latifbp
  • Reply 3 of 19
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Terrorist put location of the nuclear bomb in iPhone and he died....lol. iCloud back up can be generated in 1 hr unless an idiot tries to change iCloud password. 
    Btw, terrorist and nuclear bomb are what NSA suppose to track first, not the damn phone. 
    latifbp
  • Reply 4 of 19
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,021member
    So the assumption is the Government is hopeless at protecting citizens and what can Apple do about it?

    latifbpjfc1138Urei1620
  • Reply 5 of 19
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    ... Investigators attempted to mine Mills' iPhone 5 for evidence but were thwarted by an iOS 8 passcode and full disk encryption. ...
    AT&T will know exactly who she called and who called her.  They'll give that data to law enforcement in a split second.
    And let the Mills case be a warning.  Use iCloud and set your iPhone to do regular backups.
    As others have said many times before, Apple can then decrypt that backup and hand over relevant info to law enforcement.
    Make it easy for everyone to clean up your mess.  Use iCloud backups.
    edited March 2016 badmonk
  • Reply 6 of 19
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,007member
    sockrolid said:
    ... Investigators attempted to mine Mills' iPhone 5 for evidence but were thwarted by an iOS 8 passcode and full disk encryption. ...
    AT&T will know exactly who she called and who called her.  They'll give that data to law enforcement in a split second.
    And let the Mills case be a warning.  Use iCloud and set your iPhone to do regular backups.
    As others have said many times before, Apple can then decrypt that backup and hand over relevant info to law enforcement.
    Make it easy for everyone to clean up your mess.  Use iCloud backups.
    Why let Apple have the contents of my encrypted iPhone? What good is having an encrypted phone if someone can easily access it? It makes no sense. I use an encrypted backup on my encrypted Mac with encrypted backup. Go ahead and steal my phone, computer and backup because you won't be able to get any of my personal information including banking access. This is how everyone should protect their private data. 
    latifbpjfc1138
  • Reply 7 of 19
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,498member

    "When the Malaysia Airline[s] went down -- within one hour of that plane being declared missing -- we had Apple operators cooperating with telephone providers all over the world, with the airlines and with the FBI to try to find a ping, to try to find some way we could locate where that plane was," Sewell said.


    And one never hears about the government asking any of the Android trash companies if they are even capable of doing the same thing...
    latifbpJanNLbadmonk
  • Reply 8 of 19
    sflocal said:

    "When the Malaysia Airline[s] went down -- within one hour of that plane being declared missing -- we had Apple operators cooperating with telephone providers all over the world, with the airlines and with the FBI to try to find a ping, to try to find some way we could locate where that plane was," Sewell said.


    And one never hears about the government asking any of the Android trash companies if they are even capable of doing the same thing...


    That would be because even the FBI's 20th Century forensics mechanisms are enough to decrypt Android phones!

    As for backdoors on Android phones, to paraphrase Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body - Android is not a backdoor virgin!

  • Reply 9 of 19
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    sflocal said:

    "When the Malaysia Airline[s] went down -- within one hour of that plane being declared missing -- we had Apple operators cooperating with telephone providers all over the world, with the airlines and with the FBI to try to find a ping, to try to find some way we could locate where that plane was," Sewell said.


    And one never hears about the government asking any of the Android trash companies if they are even capable of doing the same thing...
    So what you think it was that Apple were able to do exactly that was helpful that Android companies couldn't?

    My guess is that it is actually the network operators who could be helpful, not Apple, but if you know of a network of secret Apple satellites in obit that can get a signal from an iPhone directly without going through a network operator, do tell, as that would be fascinating.
    singularity
  • Reply 10 of 19
    imatimat Posts: 154member
    What appears to be evident from this debate is the following: There are so many "examples" being made for why encryption should be weakened that, if Apple is ordered to follow the FBI's "diktat" on the San Bernardino case, there's a whole line of other agencies that will make the same request on a million other cases. At first, each and everyone will be "outmost important" until, as the procedure becomes "standard" and the public awareness weakens, privacy will only be a dream. The govt, or it's branches, will have unlimited access to each and every phone. Even for "monitoring" purposes and not only when the crime has already happened. I feel reassured that Apple is taking a strong stance from the beginning and exposes the govt, or at least some of its agencies, for what it is. A bunch of bureaucrats who only seek the "easiest" way possible to do the job they are supposed to do.

    And I am not referring in particular to the San Bernardino case, which could have it's merits. But the agencies know once, as well as Apple, that once the door is opened, there's no way back.
    A government that dreams about, and already exerted (NSA anyone?), TOTAL AND GLOBAL control of it's citizens and citizens and politicians of other countries smells so strongly "dictatorship" that I fear for the future of the US. And, as a consequence, of us all.
    ai46
  • Reply 11 of 19
    davidwdavidw Posts: 955member
    cnocbui said:
    sflocal said:
    And one never hears about the government asking any of the Android trash companies if they are even capable of doing the same thing...
    So what you think it was that Apple were able to do exactly that was helpful that Android companies couldn't?

    My guess is that it is actually the network operators who could be helpful, not Apple, but if you know of a network of secret Apple satellites in obit that can get a signal from an iPhone directly without going through a network operator, do tell, as that would be fascinating.
    My guess would be GPS data. Apple could access iCloud accounts and to see if it's set up for "Find My iPhone". I'm pretty sure network carriers don't have that data. And neither would Samsung on their Android customers. Google might, on Android phones. But they might not have easy access to the data.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 12 of 19
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    davidw said:
    cnocbui said:
    So what you think it was that Apple were able to do exactly that was helpful that Android companies couldn't?

    My guess is that it is actually the network operators who could be helpful, not Apple, but if you know of a network of secret Apple satellites in obit that can get a signal from an iPhone directly without going through a network operator, do tell, as that would be fascinating.
    My guess would be GPS data. Apple could access iCloud accounts and to see if it's set up for "Find My iPhone". I'm pretty sure network carriers don't have that data. And neither would Samsung on their Android customers. Google might, on Android phones. But they might not have easy access to the data.
    Ummmmm - how exactly would Apple be getting GPS data without a network connection?
  • Reply 13 of 19
    davidwdavidw Posts: 955member
    cnocbui said:
    davidw said:
    My guess would be GPS data. Apple could access iCloud accounts and to see if it's set up for "Find My iPhone". I'm pretty sure network carriers don't have that data. And neither would Samsung on their Android customers. Google might, on Android phones. But they might not have easy access to the data.
    Ummmmm - how exactly would Apple be getting GPS data without a network connection?
    Gee, maybe with something like this …….

    http://www.edreams.com/blog/in-flight-wifi/

    Apple may not be able to get any more info after a crash, but what if the plane had not crash yet. Or maybe if Apple can determine the last location of an iDevice on board, it might help locate the crash site.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,329member
    davidw said:
    cnocbui said:
    Ummmmm - how exactly would Apple be getting GPS data without a network connection?
    Gee, maybe with something like this …….

    http://www.edreams.com/blog/in-flight-wifi/

    Apple may not be able to get any more info after a crash, but what if the plane had not crash yet. Or maybe if Apple can determine the last location of an iDevice on board, it might help locate the crash site.
    Malaysia Airlines doesn't appear on that list and a quick search implies that m370 didn't have in flight wifi either 
  • Reply 15 of 19
    davidwdavidw Posts: 955member
    davidw said:
    Gee, maybe with something like this …….

    http://www.edreams.com/blog/in-flight-wifi/

    Apple may not be able to get any more info after a crash, but what if the plane had not crash yet. Or maybe if Apple can determine the last location of an iDevice on board, it might help locate the crash site.
    Malaysia Airlines doesn't appear on that list and a quick search implies that m370 didn't have in flight wifi either 

    I wasn't referring specifically to this Malaysia flight, but that Apple could in fact help where the telecoms (and maybe Android devices) couldn't because it is a possibility to get a network connection in flight, even if a cellular connection is not available. And even if Malaysia had WiFi, I'm sure the pilot would have turned it off, like he did the all the other electronic devices that could have tracked this plane, way before he took it off course. 
  • Reply 16 of 19
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,585member
    This is real simple. What did law enforcement do BEFORE the advent of smartphones? They did their jobs with the tools they have. And that's what they should be doing now! Period. They have the phone call records in both the mentioned cases, now do your fk'n jobs!
  • Reply 17 of 19
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    davidw said:
    Malaysia Airlines doesn't appear on that list and a quick search implies that m370 didn't have in flight wifi either 

    I wasn't referring specifically to this Malaysia flight, but that Apple could in fact help where the telecoms (and maybe Android devices) couldn't because it is a possibility to get a network connection in flight, even if a cellular connection is not available. And even if Malaysia had WiFi, I'm sure the pilot would have turned it off, like he did the all the other electronic devices that could have tracked this plane, way before he took it off course. 
    Like the article, you are trying to imbue Apple with qualities it just does not possess.  Apple is not in a superior position to network operators in the aircraft's vicinity.  If there are active phones on board a missing aircraft it will be the network operators at the forefront of any location assistance, but it is all preposterous nonsense anyway.  If the plane is in the air and in range of mobile phone towers, it will be on military radar screens.  If it's not in range of military radars, it certainly won't be in range of any mobile phone towers.  Given a plane over the sea and beyond conventional radar range, the only technologies that might be helpful would be the likes of Australia's Jindalee over the horizon radar or phone monitoring spy satellites.

    As for WiFi, once again, it is the providers and operators of the infrastructure who would be in the front seat and best placed to provide assistance, but that is a pure fantasy-land scenario anyway.  The primary mechanism for locating an Aircraft is it's transponders.  If those aren't working, I doubt anyone's surfing the internet at 12 k meters as I doubt the WiFi would be working either.
    singularity
  • Reply 18 of 19
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 775member
    But what happens when the terrorist doesn't activate his Find My Bomb app?

    And how would the terrorist have the location of the bomb in his phone?  I love these ticking time-bomb scenarios.  It's always bombs and missing children, missing children and bombs.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    Urei1620Urei1620 Posts: 88member
    fallenjt said:
    Terrorist put location of the nuclear bomb in iPhone and he died....lol. iCloud back up can be generated in 1 hr unless an idiot tries to change iCloud password. 
    Btw, terrorist and nuclear bomb are what NSA suppose to track first, not the damn phone. 
    The FBI needs to find ways around the technology if a frontal attack does not work. Success stories included cracking TOR in 2014 by FBI/Carnegie Mellon U. Who would have thought? As of 2013, leaked NSA classified documents showed that TOR was impenetrable. Every technology has its weakness and can be cracked. The point is that it should be very hard and expensive to do so, so that your regular joe cannot do it, but only by a well resourced agency like the FBI, NSA or CIA. We expect our intelligence agencies to be above the cut and keep up with the demands and challenges. Companies like Apple should keep pushing the boundaries of technological innovation, not held back by the government. Governments should try to use their vast resources to catch up to the challenge. This is the way I see things.
    edited March 2016
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