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Friday, March 25, 2016

Can Govt get data from Apple phone ~ when it that of a mass killer .. terrorist !!

Sivaji the Boss – the Rajnikanth starrer ran packed houses in 2007.    Produced by  AVM Productions, Shriya Saran was the heroine, Suman, the villain played roles.  It was a Shankar film on corruption and money laundering … A software systems architect, Sivaji, returns home to India with dreams of doing good for the society. However his plans face a roadblock in the form of the influential businessman, Adiseshan. When corruption also arises, Sivaji is left with no option but to fight the system in his own way.  Following Sivaji's "death", Adiseshan and the CBI still try to open Sivaji's laptop by trying to fool the voice-detection program, they use couple of mimicry artistes too ; this fails and all the data in the laptop is erased.

Dan Brown’s ‘Digital Fortress’ published in 1988  was a real techno-thriller…… one of the main characters was - Ensei Tankado —a disgruntled former NSA employee.  The story was about the theme of government surveillance of electronically stored information on the private lives of citizens, and the possible civil liberties and ethical implications using such technology.  When the United States National Security Agency's code-breaking supercomputer (TRANSLTR) encounters a new and complex code—Digital Fortress—that it cannot break, Susan Fletcher, the head cryptographer discovers that it was written by Ensei Tankado, an employee displeased with the NSA's intrusion into people's private lives.

A federal magistrate Judge postponed a highly anticipated Tuesday hearing over the Justice Department’s request for Apple Inc. to help unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, after the government said it may have found another way to view the phone’s contents. In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., the government said an “outside party” on Sunday demonstrated to the Federal Bureau of Investigation a possible method for unlocking the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who, along with his wife, killed 14 people in a December attack in San Bernardino, Calif. The government said it must test the method, but that if it is successful, “it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple” in unlocking Mr. Farook’s phone.

The sudden move, less than 24 hours before the scheduled hearing, is the latest twist in the high-stakes legal battle between the Justice Department and the world’s most valuable company in a closely watched case over the balance between privacy and national security in the digital age.

As recently as March 10, the Justice Department said in a court filing that “without Apple’s assistance, the government cannot carry out the search of Farook’s iPhone.” But many information-security experts had been skeptical of that claim, suggesting several ways investigators could extract data from the phone without Apple’s help.

Only hours earlier, at an event to introduce a new iPhone, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple had a responsibility to protect its customers’ data and privacy and restated why it was important for the company to take a principled stance on refusing the government’s order. “We will not shrink from this responsibility,” said Mr. Cook. “We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy.” Even if Apple’s assistance in this case is deemed unnecessary, it seems likely that the Justice Department and Apple may clash again in the future. Smartphones are storing valuable information for everybody including criminals, making it an important avenue for investigations while also making it critical for Apple that it keeps hackers out.

The San Bernardino case appeared tailor-made for the government’s case, since it involved a phone used by a deceased terrorist and mass killer, rather than a run-of-the mill criminal as is more typical in such encryption fights. The Justice Department had spent weeks making the case for Apple’s cooperation as a matter of principle. 

        The government had requested that Apple disable security features that impose delays between successive attempts to enter a phone’s password, and erase the phone’s data after 10 unsuccessful attempts. Investigators would then enter every possible password to gain access to the phone.

Apple has said it is technically capable of doing this, but that would entail creating a new operating system that would ultimately make hundreds of millions of iPhones less secure. It is contended by them that Judge Pym’s order would set a dangerous precedent by forcing a company to write software meant to weaken the security of its product. The government has said the case is about a single phone used by a terrorist that might contain information about other plots.  

To an ordinary reader, there is no doubt and seems  crystal clear that the Govt. is right this time and the Company not !!

Further reports suggest that Israeli company Cellebrite has been appointed by the FBI to find an alternative way to unlockthe iPhone 5c involved in the San Bernardino shootings, according to Israeli newspaper the Yedioth Ahronoth and Reuters. Cellebrite has been developing forensics solutions for law enforcement and intelligence.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th Mar 2016.

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