Published On: Fri, Feb 19th, 2016

No, Apple Has Not Unlocked 70 iPhones For Law Enforcement


The some-more rarely technical a basement of a story, a some-more expected it is that some pivotal fact will get jacked up by a publisher perplexing to translate it for a public. Call it Panzer’s Law.

It’s usually natural, generally when it comes to stories about confidence and privacy, such as Apple vs. a FBI. There are a innumerable of formidable technical mechanics during play, fiercely formidable Gordian Knots of encryption and hardware solutions to unravel and a series of prior interactions between Apple and a supervision that have set one fashion or another.

But no matter how tough it is, it’s critical to get this things right. The press has a ability not usually to act as a translator yet also as an obfuscator. If they get it and they’re means to broach that information clearly and with scold perspective, a review is elevated, a open is sensitive and infrequently it even alters a impetus of policy-making for a better.

When it comes to a justice sequence from a FBI to Apple, constrained it to assistance it impulse a passcode, there is one critical eminence that I’ve been saying conflated.

Specifically, we keep saying reports that Apple has unbarred “70 iPhones” for a government. And those reports disagree that Apple is now refusing to do for a FBI what it has finished many times before. This meme is completely false during best, and dangerous during worst.

There are dual cases involving information requests by a supervision that are function during a moment. There is a box in New York — in that Apple is perplexing unequivocally tough not to palm over patron information even yet it has a collection to do so — and there is a box in California, where it is fighting an sequence from a FBI to intentionally break a confidence of a device to concede a passcode to be burst by beast force. These are apart cases with apart things during stake.

The New York box involves an iPhone using iOS 7. On inclination using iOS 7 and previous, Apple indeed has a capability to extract data, including (at several stages in a encryption march) contacts, photos, calls and iMessages without unlocking a phones. That final bit is key, given in a prior cases where Apple has complied with legitimate supervision requests for information, this is a routine it has used.

It has not unbarred these iPhones — it has extracted information that was permitted while they were still locked. The routine for doing this is laid out in a white paper for law enforcement. Here’s a language:

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 during 4.12.20 PM

It’s value observant that a supervision has some collection to clear phones without Apple’s help, yet those are strike and miss, and have zero to do with Apple. It’s value observant that in a statements to a justice in a New York case, a supervision never says Apple unlocks devices, yet rather that it bypasses a close to remove a information.

The California case, in contrast, involves a device using iOS 9. The information that was formerly permitted while a phone was sealed ceased to be so as of a recover of iOS 8, when Apple started securing it with encryption tied to a passcode, rather than a hardware ID of a device. FaceTime, for instance, has been encrypted given 2010, and iMessages given 2011.

So Apple is incompetent to remove any information including iMessages from a device given all of that information is encrypted. This is the usually reason that a FBI now wants Apple to break a confidence so that it can brute-force a passcode. Because a information can't be review unless a passcode is entered properly.

If, however, we assume that these stories are scold and that Apple has complied with requests to clear iPhone passcodes before and is only refusing to do so now, it could seem that a fashion has already been set. That is not a box during all, and in fact that is because Apple is fighting a sequence so tough — to equivocate such a fashion from being set.

The New York box has another wrinkle, that is a apart issue. Apple can theoretically approve with a information descent ask there, yet is refusing to do so on dual bases: extracting information from inclination diverts manpower and resources, and that a supervision is perplexing to use a far-reaching focus of a All Writs Act of 1789.

At the insistence of Judge Orenstein, a sovereign court in a NY case, Apple filed a response in that it questioned a new focus of a AWA. Apple also argues that given a repute is formed on confidence and privacy, complying with a court’s final formed on an stretched focus of a 200-year-old law could put it at risk of blemish that reputation. Apple is still watchful for a final sequence on either to approve from a decider there. The All Writs Act is also being used in a box in California.

Still, even if Apple were to approve in New York, it would not be unlocking a device, merely extracting information off of it with customary methodology for pre-iOS 8 devices. If a FBI succeeds in grouping Apple to approve in California, it would have to build a new program chronicle of iOS that authorised electronic brute-force cue cracking. This is an critical eminence to make when articulate about such an critical precedent-setting case.

Article updated to explain what information Apple can extract.

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