Apple won't unlock India Prime Minister's election opponent's iPhone

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India's Enforcement Directorate has jailed Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ahead of elections, and wants proof of alleged bribery it says is locked in his iPhone.

Indian election rival Arvind Kejriwal has refused to unlock his iPhone after his arrest
Indian election rival Arvind Kejriwal has refused to unlock his iPhone after his arrest



Kejriwal is the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, also known as the common man's party, and together with two aides, was arrested on Friday March 29, 2024. The Chief Minister, a rival to prime minister Narendra Modi in the forthcoming general election, is now in judicial custody over alleged corruption.

According to The Indian Express, officials also seized four iPhones, including Kejriwal's. He has refused to unlock his iPhone, saying that doing so would give the Enforcement Directorate (ED) details of his election strategy, and what are described as pre-poll alliances.

The Indian Express article leads with how the ED has asked Apple to unlock the iPhone, and refers to it having officially requested help. But it then only quite quietly reveals that Apple must have said no.

"[The ED has] been told that a password was necessary for retrieving any data," says the publication.

Kejriwal and his assistants are accused specifically of corruption relating to a liquor policy that was being drafted in 2020/2021. Reportedly, the Chief Minister has said that he has subsequently upgrade his iPhone, with the publication accepting that this means any contemporaneous data is no longer available.

The judicial custody sentence is due to last seven days, though it's not clear when that week began. What is clearer, though, is that India's general election takes place over an extended period beginning April 19, 2024.

Supporters of Kejriwal say that the arrest and jailing is politically motivated, with the ED being government-controlled.

Apple has not commented on the request to unlock the iPhone. The company does have a policy of providing law enforcement with certain information when subpoenaed, but it will never unlock iPhones.

Separately, Apple CEO Tim Cook has met with current Indian prime minister Narendra Modi several times. India has become increasingly important to Apple as it works to move away from over-reliance on China for its manufacturing.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,211member


    Apple has not commented on the request to unlock the iPhone. The company does have a policy of providing law enforcement with certain information when subpoenaed, but it will never unlock iPhones.

    I didn't think it was a matter of "won't unlock", but instead cannot unlock, same with Google Android. If not then both Apple and Google would have to comply with legal orders to unlock them. There's good reasons that both companies employ E2EE. With no key they can't be ordered to turn over whatever was locked by the user. But beware of cloud services with backups. 
    edited April 1 avon b7rob53darelrexjbdragonBart Ybeowulfschmidtronn
  • Reply 2 of 15
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,248member
    gatorguy said:


    Apple has not commented on the request to unlock the iPhone. The company does have a policy of providing law enforcement with certain information when subpoenaed, but it will never unlock iPhones.

    I didn't think it was a matter of "won't unlock", but instead cannot unlock, same with Google Android. If not then both Apple and Google would have to comply with legal orders to unlock them. There's good reasons that both companies employ E2EE. With no key they can't be ordered to turn over whatever was locked by the user. But beware of cloud services with backups. 
    I agree. The only way Apple could unlock an iPhone would be to use one of those (should be illegal) products that hack iPhones, like the one from Israel that supposedly is in the hands of many US government three-letter agencies. 

    As for moving manufacturing out of China into India, I consider both countries to be suspicious. I'm sure you know India is the Mecca of hacking and spammer organizations.
    watto_cobrajbdragonronn
  • Reply 3 of 15
    The Indian Government (the current ruling BJP party at least) is very vindicative, and I believe, it is too popular among the populace to lose the upcoming elections.

    Also, unlike Americans, Indians aren't as privacy focused and think of iPhones as merely status symbols, and the privacy and security aspects are only appreciated after the fact. Also, unlike Americans who openly dislike government regulation, Indians are highly wary of private corporations and, in many cases, want government to take action. So the FBI vs Apple case will not repeat in India.

    I think they (Apple) will eventually succumb to political pressure, or face increasing regulatory pressure from the country in other avenues.

    edited April 1
  • Reply 4 of 15
    India appears to be on the path towards becoming a sham democracy. 
    watto_cobrajbdragonVictorMortimermuthuk_vanalingamronn
  • Reply 5 of 15
    rob53 said:

    As for moving manufacturing out of China into India, I consider both countries to be suspicious. I'm sure you know India is the Mecca of hacking and spammer organizations.
    I don't think it's so rampant in the country as you state. Keep it mind, it has a population of 1.42 Billion, even 1% of that is a huge number.

    However, I digress, it's a problem. Partly blamed due to a huge percentage of the population being computer literate (more so than most countries) and having no other method of income.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 15
    darelrexdarelrex Posts: 136member
    I think the hardware devices that hack iPhones (Celebrite, Graykey) don't work anymore on today's fully updated iPhones. Apple figured out what they were doing, and fixed it. Now you get a very limited number of tries before the Secure Enclave wipes itself, erasing the only copy of the 256-bit AES decryption key. Then, even the person who knows the unlock code can't get the data back: all the encrypted personal data in that iPhone is forever unreadable — unless some theoretical quantum computer of the future can crack 256-bit AES.
    watto_cobrajbdragonVictorMortimerronn
  • Reply 7 of 15
    neoncatneoncat Posts: 151member
    darelrex said:
    I think the hardware devices that hack iPhones (Celebrite, Graykey) don't work anymore on today's fully updated iPhones. 
    This is somewhat incorrect. There is generally a lag between when an iPhone is introduced and when a bug or errata that allows for privilege escalation is discovered, but there has yet to be a generation of iPhone or iOS that has not been compromised by an actor using a hardware facilitator (like the ones you mention). 

    Which would suggest that a government pressuring Apple to accomplish this on their behalf is largely performative. Meaning, they're doing it as a reminder to Apple, a shot across the bow for the next time they want some kind of special accommodation for their factories, relaxed tariffs, etc. Not different than Apple immediately ceding to whatever made-up requirement the Chinese government comes up with to protect their Foxconn investment or sales channels. Apple isn't going to let anyone's personal information get in the way of securing their business needs and protecting their margins. Apple won't help the Indian government publicly, or even directly, but I guarantee you they're using a back channel to offer a nudge in the right direction. "It's only business."
    edited April 1
  • Reply 8 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,211member
    darelrex said:
    I think the hardware devices that hack iPhones (Celebrite, Graykey) don't work anymore on today's fully updated iPhones. Apple figured out what they were doing, and fixed it. Now you get a very limited number of tries before the Secure Enclave wipes itself, erasing the only copy of the 256-bit AES decryption key. Then, even the person who knows the unlock code can't get the data back: all the encrypted personal data in that iPhone is forever unreadable — unless some theoretical quantum computer of the future can crack 256-bit AES.
    Celebrite (and Graykey?) are constantly buying new zero-days as they become available as well as crafting their own methods. I'm pretty sure they can gain access to even the latest iPhones with up-to-date firmware. When one door closes....
    edited April 1 neoncatmuthuk_vanalingamdewme
  • Reply 9 of 15
    darelrexdarelrex Posts: 136member
    gatorguy said:
    darelrex said:
    I think the hardware devices that hack iPhones (Celebrite, Graykey) don't work anymore on today's fully updated iPhones. Apple figured out what they were doing, and fixed it. Now you get a very limited number of tries before the Secure Enclave wipes itself, erasing the only copy of the 256-bit AES decryption key. Then, even the person who knows the unlock code can't get the data back: all the encrypted personal data in that iPhone is forever unreadable — unless some theoretical quantum computer of the future can crack 256-bit AES.
    Celebrite (and Graykey?) are constantly buying new zero-days as they become available as well as crafting their own methods. I'm pretty sure they can gain access to even the latest iPhones with up-to-date firmware. When one door closes....

    When you seize a locked iPhone, iOS doesn't even have the strong-AES decryption key for the user's encrypted personal data. Nor does it have the user's unlock code. Only the Secure Enclave has those things.

    Zero-days might get you into iOS, but not into the Secure Enclave which is dramatically simpler than iOS and totally separate from it. Apparently there was some flaw in the original Secure Enclave that made Celebrite and Graykey possible for a while, but that is reportedly fixed. Will there be an endless new supply of flaws in the Secure Enclave, to keep Celebrite and Graykey working on iPhones? I seriously doubt it.

    But point to you: I keep finding reports on the internet that Graykey works against very recent iPhones. Not sure what to think of that!
    edited April 1 davwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    XedXed Posts: 2,539member
    I agree with others that it's a "cannot" issue, not that Apple is refusing to abide by official court orders.
    darelrexwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 15
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,309member
    I think the public has an incorrect idea on what locks Apple can open. 

    Activation lock, which is when you have a device that was able to be erased with “find my” on, or glitched and was off when you erased it but after it was, it thinks it was on. That lock Apple can remove with proper credentials. 

    Passcode locks? No. 
    Like others have mentioned, this is something Apple can’t help you with. That’s why it’s so important to back up your device. People have lost everything on their devices by something as simple as a glitching display. The device thinks you’re touching it when you’re not. Which leads the device to enter into recovery mode. Once that happens, unless there is a vulnerability to reset the number of tries, it’s over. The device has to be erased. 

    Depending on where your stuff is stored, you may or may not be able to get it back from a backup. Anything the Secure Enclave chip uses is gone, along with app data that the app will refuse to save outside of the app. A lot of corporate apps are like that.  Friends of mine who work at the Apple stores get a lot of frustrated traveling business executives who have their device stop working or damage it and have to replace or restore their device and find out they don’t have the information they need for their business appointments. 

    With all of the hacker tools out there, it might be telling that India has asked Apple, knowing already what the answer would be. To me, it says, they have already tried other nefarious ways to get into the device and have failed. At least without having to pay $$$ to scumbags like NSO. 



    ronn
  • Reply 12 of 15
    If a court rules that Apple must unlock a phone (assuming that they can physically do it) they have to unlock it unless they can win an appeal from a higher court. Of course if they can’t physically do it that is a different matter.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 15
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,860member
    India appears to be on the path towards becoming a sham democracy. 
    I think it appears they have reached the end of that path
    ronn
  • Reply 14 of 15
    India appears to be on the path towards becoming a sham democracy. 
    I think it appears they have reached the end of that path
    Not yet. There is still a bit of democracy left in my country. The elections are about to start in couple of weeks from now and results will be announced on first week of June. If BJP wins again, then we will be on that path in a fast forward mode for the next 5 years.
  • Reply 15 of 15

    Title is very misleading. AppleInsider should have done research better before writing political Articles. Firstly, Kejriwal accused in Delhi Liquor Scam destroyed many phones. And secondly, Kejriwal is not Opponent of Modi..they are in huge alliance and no one knows who would be PM face now alone.. Leftist western media houses want to defame India and Modi by these allegations. i suggest Americans to not believe this thrash and roam in streets of India to know true India.. when it comes to democracy, India is far better than US. No one here removes reports on Son of President. All tech companies clearly work for your president. American Deep State doesn't want Modi to come back because Pappu (Rahul Gandhi) or anyone in INDI alliance  can be influenced but not Modi, who is taking independent foreign policy that suits India better. Also, US doesn't want friendship with India, it wants India as puppet . Modi's foreign policy of being friendly to Russia also pisses off "Big Brother". Till Indian general elections, you guys would see negative news about India which is how your beloved country controls narrative.

    Most negative comments on Modi come from Islamists, Dravidians (tamil language chauvinists). Rest all India is fine with Modi. 

    https://www.deccanherald.com/india/mobile-phone-used-by-delhi-cm-kejriwal-during-excise-policy-scam-missing-report-2951188

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