Apple vs FBI/DOJ – Timeline and Breakdown of Encryption Case


Court rules that Apple must assist FBI in bypassing or disabling the auto-erase function in the iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the people accused of killing 14 in San Bernardino, California two months ago

Tuesday February, 16 2016 -- Court Rules that Apple Must Aid FBI in Hacking Phone of San Bernardino Terrorist

U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym signed a ruling on Tuesday ordering Apple to assist the FBI in bypassing or disabling the auto-erase function in the iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook. Farook is one of the people accused of killing 14 in San Bernardino, California two months ago. This ruling would allow the FBI to access the phone recovered in the San Bernardino shooting case.

Tuesday February, 16 2016 -- Apple CEO Tim Cook Opposes Ruling in Open Letter

The ruling on Tuesday triggered a livid response from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said the government wanted the company to provide a backdoor to its phones. In an open letter, on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook opposed the court's ruling, stating that:

"Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."

Wednesday, February, 17 2016 -- White House Clarifies that a Backdoor is not Being Requested

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday during a briefing that the Department of Justice is “not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to one of their products.” It is "simply asking for something that would have an impact on this one device.”

Friday February, 19 2016 -- Government Files Motion in Federal Court for Apple to Comply

Apple had until Feb. 26 to refute the order under the decision reached Tuesday. The government now wants the court to pick up the pace. Friday, the Government, filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to immediately require Apple to assist the FBI in accessing the iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook. "Apple's public statement makes clear that Apple will not comply with the Court's Order," the motion by the DOJ said.

Auto-Erase Feature Enabled on Phone in Question

The iPhone was issued to Syed Rizwan Farook by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. When the phone was issued for business use, the auto-erase feature was enabled. This is because the security team at the agency believed it to be an important layer of protection to enable.

FBI is Asking Apple to Disable Auto Erase Feature and Delays After Incorrect Passwords.

The FBI wants Apple to write a version of iOS that wouldn’t auto-erase a device after 10 failed passcode guesses and wouldn’t insert delays after each wrong attempt, so the agency can brute force the passcode and get into the shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone.

Opposition to Apple Argues that this is an Isolated Request and Apple is Being Disingenuous

"But Cook is being disingenuous. Apple is not being asked to hand over a backdoor or a master key. It's not being asked to decrypt Farook's iPhone. Rather, Apple is being asked to let FBI technicians decrypt the phone themselves. That's very different," wrote Paul Wagenseil, a senior editor at Tom's Guide.

Other experts have made similar arguments. Robert Graham, of Errata Security, blogged that Apple isn't being ordered to develop a backdoor: "the court order explicitly wants Apple to limit the special software for only this phone, so it wouldn't be something the FBI could use on other phones."

Apple and Supporters Argue that Complying with this Request Sets Dangerous Precedence

Cook added that the government suggests the tool could only be used once, on one phone, and argued that once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.

If Apple were forced to do what the court ordered, would that mean the courts could order other vendors to do the same in the future? Does complying with this court order mean Apple will have to do the same for other devices or even build these bypasses for future iOS devices? If the FBI wins, then the FBI can obtain orders requiring other developers to insert arbitrary code in their products.

Worse still, nothing will prevent foreign governments--including regimes such as China that have dubious human rights records--from demanding the same capabilities. In other words, the FBI is asking a court to endorse a legal theory that could be used to compel backdoors in essentially anything.

The Reason this Case has Received National Attention

Apple has assisted the Justice Department in iPhone data extraction countless times since the iPhone launched. Many have wondered why this case is the one on that Apple chose to take its stance on protection of customer privacy. Especially provided the indefensible actions of Farook. According to the Times, the government decided to make its request public this time, and Apple CEO Tim Cook decided he had to publicly reject the request. Now that the lines are drawn, it’s up to a judge to determine whether the law is on Apple’s side.

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