Police asking Apple to decrypt seized iPhones must wait their turn

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple is inundated with so many requests from law enforcement agencies to decrypt seized iPhones that officials must endure a waiting list before their case is handled.

The waiting list was revealed in a judge's recent court decision that was spotted by CNet and highlighted on Friday. U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had contacted Apple for assistance in decrypting a particular seized iPhone, but the agency was placed on a waiting list.

ATF


An ATF agent turned to Apple for help after discovering that the agency "did not have the forensic capability" to decrypt the phone. Once the agent reached out to Apple, they were told it would be a wait of at least 7 weeks before the case could be addressed.

Law enforcement agencies are attempting to bypass Apple's security in order to gather evidence that can be used to charge suspected criminals. But because they're unable to break Apple's encryption, agencies are forced to seek assistance from the iPhone maker.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also issued a memo last month calling Apple's iMessages platform a "challenge" to intercept. DEA officials attempting to tap into suspects' text messages have run into problems with iPhone-to-iPhone iMessages, which are securely encrypted.

Apple's strength of security has iOS on track to gain security clearance from the Department of Defense. Specifically, iOS 6 is expected to gain approval for use among Pentagon employees.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 60
    leonardleonard Posts: 528member
    Sounds like a catch-22. Federal departments won't use the iPhone unless it has good security, but yet, other Federal departments are having problems breaking that security because criminals use it.
  • Reply 2 of 60
    negafoxnegafox Posts: 480member
    Why can't they use an external program like iExplorer to access the iPhone's file system?
  • Reply 3 of 60


    It really does speak to the inherent value of the produce, whether it be hardware or software.

  • Reply 4 of 60
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,575member


    Hopefully Apple is billing the various agencies for each case. Why should Apple be doing the police's work for them for free? And I also read that Apple delivers the results on a USB thumb drive. Apple should be making money off of each police request and charging appropriately. Apple should be making a reasonable profit margin on each request.


     


    It's good that the DEA has a hard time tapping into suspect's messages, as this proves that iPhone to iPhone messages are very secure. 


     


    In the future, people should be able to buy weed directly from within an app, with one click and zero hassle. The DEA is wasting their time and wasting our tax payer money. Hopefully they will have to wait a lot longer than 7 weeks for each request. The DEA should be downsized or dismantled completely. Talk about a useless and worthless job.

  • Reply 5 of 60
    obsrvrobsrvr Posts: 5member
    And who pays for Apple employees to handle this huge task? Law enforcement agencies? Or are there laws that make Apple responsible for providing them this service "for free"?
  • Reply 6 of 60
    thetoethetoe Posts: 84member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Negafox View Post



    Why can't they use an external program like iExplorer to access the iPhone's file system?


     


    Do those programs work without a password?

  • Reply 7 of 60
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    Hopefully Apple is billing the various agencies for each case. Why should Apple be doing the police's work for them for free? And I also read that Apple delivers the results on a USB thumb drive. Apple should be making money off of each police request and charging appropriately. Apple should be making a reasonable profit margin on each request.


     


    It's good that the DEA has a hard time tapping into suspect's messages, as this proves that iPhone to iPhone messages are very secure. 


     


    In the future, people should be able to buy weed directly from within an app, with one click and zero hassle. The DEA is wasting their time and wasting our tax payer money. Hopefully they will have to wait a lot longer than 7 weeks for each request. The DEA should be downsized or dismantled completely. Talk about a useless and worthless job.



     


    Wow - so it is a waste of tax payer money for the DEA to stop criminals from profiting off illegal drugs but you are perfectly okay with a waste of tax payer money by the BATFE to decrypt cell phones to stop criminals from profiting off their illegal actives. What a weird and wonderful world you must live in.


     


    I wonder if the 7 week wait is an actual backlog of 7 weeks - or maybe just a generic answer - or perhaps something else, perhaps along the lines of Apple's legal department spending some time to ensure there are no legal repercussions to Apple for doing so. 


     


    Also - where in the article does it say that Apple provides this service at no charge to law enforcement? and if they do it should be useful to Apple to test various methods of decryption and to use that info to make the device even more secure in the future. 

  • Reply 8 of 60
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member


    How do I encrypt my iPhone?

  • Reply 9 of 60
    mrbofusmrbofus Posts: 20member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Leonard View Post



    Sounds like a catch-22. Federal departments won't use the iPhone unless it has good security, but yet, other Federal departments are having problems breaking that security because criminals use it.


    I could be wrong, but I don't think that's a catch-22.  Doesn't a catch-22 mean that there are contradictory constraints?  One federal department (the ATF) not being able to break the security on an iPhone has nothing to do with another federal department (the DoD) using the phone.

  • Reply 10 of 60
    edrededred Posts: 48member





    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Negafox View Post



    Why can't they use an external program like iExplorer to access the iPhone's file system?




     


     


    The problem I think is not accessing the data but decrypting it.

  • Reply 11 of 60
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by obsrvr View Post



    And who pays for Apple employees to handle this huge task? Law enforcement agencies? Or are there laws that make Apple responsible for providing them this service "for free"?


     


    Apple is entitled to charge for the service. There is a large industry of computer forensics companies that are supported by law enforcement.

  • Reply 12 of 60
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,575member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post


     


    Wow - so it is a waste of tax payer money for the DEA to stop criminals from profiting off illegal drugs but you are perfectly okay with a waste of tax payer money by the BATFE to decrypt cell phones to stop criminals from profiting off their illegal actives. What a weird and wonderful world you must live in.


     


    I wonder if the 7 week wait is an actual backlog of 7 weeks - or maybe just a generic answer - or perhaps something else, perhaps along the lines of Apple's legal department spending some time to ensure there are no legal repercussions to Apple for doing so. 


     


    Also - where in the article does it say that Apple provides this service at no charge to law enforcement? and if they do it should be useful to Apple to test various methods of decryption and to use that info to make the device even more secure in the future. 



     


    I didn't mention anything about the BATFE, though I am able recognize the difference between somebody transporting illegal firearms and somebody else who is in possession of a harmless plant.


     


    As for what Apple charges, you're right, it doesn't say anything about that at all in the article, and that is exactly why I wrote that I sure hope that Apple is getting paid for it's services rendered to law enforcement. 

  • Reply 13 of 60
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post




    I wonder if the 7 week wait is an actual backlog of 7 weeks ...



    The service probably takes between 10 minutes and 7 weeks depending on the nature of the crime.

  • Reply 14 of 60
    ankleskaterankleskater Posts: 1,287member
    It really does speak to the inherent value of the produce, whether it be hardware or software.

    I consider all produce to be software, except maybe for carrots and coconuts.
  • Reply 15 of 60
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mrbofus View Post


    I could be wrong, but I don't think that's a catch-22.  Doesn't a catch-22 mean that there are contradictory constraints?  One federal department (the ATF) not being able to break the security on an iPhone has nothing to do with another federal department (the DoD) using the phone.



     


    It is a Catch-22 if you view it from the position of "the government" (overall).  

  • Reply 16 of 60
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,831member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Leonard View Post



    Sounds like a catch-22. Federal departments won't use the iPhone unless it has good security, but yet, other Federal departments are having problems breaking that security because criminals use it.


     


    Not a catch-22, but it is ironic.

  • Reply 17 of 60
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


     


    It is a Catch-22 if you view it from the position of "the government" (overall).  



     


    Not really. They just make it illegal for civilians to own that technology. Look at guns, technologies like night vision and spy satellites, and in the past encryption (clipper chip).

  • Reply 18 of 60
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,831member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Negafox View Post



    Why can't they use an external program like iExplorer to access the iPhone's file system?


     


    There problem isn't being able to access the data, it's being able to decrypt it - when you activate the "device lock" feature, all data is encrypted on the fly.

  • Reply 19 of 60
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    A 7 week delay of habeas corpus would suck if one is innocent.
  • Reply 20 of 60
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member


    It's worth remembering that the cops (especially government cops like the DEA) just think that they should be able to view everything on everyone's phone or laptop once that person has done anything to put them "under suspicion."  


    So in fact, a lot of those requests are going to be of the type where some poor sucker has been arrested, and they just want to look at everything on his phone so they can track down all the accomplices, etc.  It's not really a case of them actually knowing there is anything of probative value on the phone, more that they just want to invade the privacy of the person they just arrested as they typically would do, because, you know, criminals and "bad guys" have no rights. Unfortunately the iPhone stymies them.  


     


    Also, to those commenting about "stop(ing) criminals profiting from illegal drugs" … go get your head examined.  "Illegal Drugs" are not really a problem, just the crime created by the fact that they are illegal.  America has the most backward policy towards "illegal drugs" on the planet, and the what the DEA does on a daily basis today will likely look very similar to a Klu Klux Klan rally to our children.  It's actually the cops that are the "bad guys" in this war. 

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