back to article Apple engineers rebel, refuse to work on iOS amid FBI iPhone battle

Apple's refusal to build a crippled iOS that will help the FBI unlock a killer's iPhone goes far beyond the executive suite. Some of Cupertino's own engineers are refusing to work on the operating system in case they are forced to aid the US government. Register sources familiar with the matter told us that, since the start of …

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  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    People? Still having principles?

    Wait a minute... First of April is in two weeks time.

    Having principles is so... mid-20th century... (or even early 20th century and before that for some countries).

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: People? Still having principles?

      To: All Staff

      Subject: Please read the following news article.

      Attachment: Public stance for Apple vs FBI

      Body: Please read the attachment. Pleasant coincidental reminder, your appraisals start next month. Pay consultation the month after. Feel free to chat about the issue in the common room where rumours of surveillance are wholly exaggerated..

      Peace and love, hugs and kittens,

      Timmy.

      *note all views expressed by you will (probably) be treat as your own personal views and (probably) not be endorsed by Apple.

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    How unAmerican ...

    Of course, if the people who *build* the iPhones tried to band together to express solidarity, they'd be labelled commie bastards, and sacked.

    If there's one thing worse than no principles, it's selective ones.

    1. Vector

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      Ummm...don't the people who build iPhones live in a communist country?

    2. gollux

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      Next time around, please put a joke alert on. While a good portion of Apples software engineering and hardware R&D might be done in the US, I'd like to see a list of who builds iPhones in the US. It's got to be a pretty short to non-existent list...

      Also, last I heard, Taiwan hasn't been taken over by Mainland China yet... and that's where Foxconn is based so we have a mix of their Mainland China locations that are Communists waiting to be rebranded as Extreme Communists and Taiwanese who will laugh at you...

      1. Vector
        Happy

        @gollux Re: How unAmerican ...

        Foxconn might be based in Taiwan, but the factories that produce iPhones and iPads are in Mainland China (Zhengzhou and Chengdu respectively), so I stand by my original statement.

        1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

          Mainland china is not communist.

          USA is more communist than mainland china.

          1. SuccessCase

            Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

            Officially mainland China has one party The Communist Party of China. To compete in a global economy, and to attract inward investment and foreign companies, China has set up Special Economic Zones, where the rules of a Communist command economy don't apply and a more Capitalist friendly business regulatory framework is applied. This results in many embarrassing conflicts of principle but if you can control the narrative you can ensure they are simply ignored.

            1. PNGuinn
              Unhappy

              Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

              I am coming to the sad conclusion that the USA is also fast becoming in effect a one party state.

              As is the uk. Even sadder speaking as a Brit.

              Democracy - the opium of the masses?

              1. Keith Glass

                Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

                Becoming ?? Been there for **decades**. The Permanent Washington Incumbent Party has ruled the roost since the 1970s, merely trading power internally between the Democrat and Republican wings. . .

          2. Nifty

            Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

            The downvoters couldn't appreciate the truth so let's rephrase:

            China is more Capitalist than the USA

        2. Displacement Activity

          Re: @gollux How unAmerican ...

          @vector: I think you might have missed the point of JimmyPages' original post.

          And it's curious that nearly 30% of Reg readers have either done the same, or are happy with selective principles.

    3. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      Sacked? Who is going to sack them? They might refuse to do something that Apple orders them to do, but they wouldn't refuse to do something Apple wants them to do. No reason to sack anyone.

    4. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      @gollux - lighten up ffs, stop over-thinking it for crying out loud, It's a "generic joke", you have to suspend your specific knowledge of the situation in favour of the general understanding that most people believe that all iPhones are made in China!

      FFS! What is it with the fecking internet that demands we can have a joke and then have to spend 16 posts explaining why it was supposed to be fricking funny?!

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        How American ...

        > FFS! What is it with the fecking internet that demands we can have a joke and then have to spend 16 posts explaining why it was supposed to be fricking funny?

        It's called telling a joke to foreigners. It seems to happen whenever you expect to tell one to Americans. The contumely is that of switching off ones' expectations.

    5. Bloakey1

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      "Of course, if the people who *build* the iPhones tried to band together to express solidarity, they'd be labelled commie bastards, and sacked."

      <snip>

      In the event that they did get together then they would be done under RICO.

    6. PNGuinn
      Black Helicopters

      Re: How unAmerican ...

      "commie bastards"

      That's so mid 20th century.

      It's "Terrirists" now. Do keep up.

      Commie bastardism fell with the iron curtain and all that. Didn't it??

  3. Bucky 2

    It's likely I'm missing something.

    You can duplicate the phone data into a VM and brute-force a 4-digit code in no time at all.

    Under such circumstances, the FBI's request to break the encryption itself, as a "one-off," is bizarre.

    And if Apple has received a court order, I don't see why they don't offer brute-forcing as an alternative, either.

    When something seems that obvious, then it's likely that I've either completely misunderstood the problem at hand, or else there are shenanigans going on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

      You can duplicate the phone data into a VM and brute-force a 4-digit code in no time at all.

      Aaaaaaaaand here we go again. :(

      When something seems that obvious, then it's likely that I've either completely misunderstood the problem at hand, or else there are shenanigans going on.

      It's the first.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

        Even though he was wrong I gave him an upvote for at least being smart enough to have the realization "when something seems that obvious, then it's likely that I've either completely misunderstood the problem at hand", which none of the dozen others who posted the same thing over the past couple weeks had the self awareness to realize.

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

        "When something seems that obvious, then it's likely that I've either completely misunderstood the problem at hand, or else there are shenanigans going on."

        Well yes, but I do understand a fair bit about embedded computers, I know what can and cannot be done on an iPhone budget... however I cannot find a way how Apple could plausibly have built a device which would somehow store it's keys in a way that cannot be easily circumvented by physical access... particularly given the fact that the only "secret" the device can get is a PIN.

        The discussion just assumes that Apple somehow magically has solved the problem of physical security on a budget, without giving any evidence on how that could work.

        "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." However we are seeing none of those. The hypothesis that this is all just an elaborate PR stunt seems much more plausible, particularly since it puts Apple in a good light.

        Please prove me wrong by telling me how the data is actually encrypted and how it is using things you cannot read out on a crime investigation budget.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

          why not try google and not being so wilfully ignorant? El Reg have done several good write ups as have others.

          Investigatory budgets are close to zero when compared to what apple can throw at its iPhone division.

          If there is a charade here is being perpetrated by the FBI who either aren't willing or incapable of trying a hardware based approach. Basically the feebs are trying to set a precedent so they don't have to go running to the NSA everytime.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

            Investigatory budgets are close to zero when compared to what apple can throw at its iPhone division.

            Probably one of the most insightful comments so far, except for the fact that agencies DO have a frankly unbelievable budget. As stated before, I would ask what the heck the agencies have done with that money if they irrespective of that budget STILL end up critically dependent on data on one consumer level device.

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

          You have several embedded computers with built-in keys that cannot be easily circumvented with physical access in your wallet.

          The chip in a chip'n'pin does this.

          The hardware is specialist but also very cheap.

          1. Christian Berger Silver badge

            Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

            "The chip in a chip'n'pin does this."

            Yes, but a) those chips cost nearly an Euro.

            b) The same technology has been broken multiple times, by rivalling Pay-TV companies.

            Here's a talk about the forensic abilities of the Dutch police:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVGlr5fleQA

            http://bofh.nikhef.nl/events/OHM/video/

            Essentially you can uncap the chip and get the data out directly. Sure this is to expensive to be worth for Chip and Pin or Pay-TV, but it's certainly within the budget of large investigations...

            ...and that's the actual point about this. It is not to hard to do this, but it is far to hard to do it within the scope of "random bag searches". It's not about being able to unlock that device at all, it's about making it cheap enough so it can be done repeatedly.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

          Well yes, but I do understand a fair bit about embedded computers, I know what can and cannot be done on an iPhone budget

          I think your challenge is that you may know embedded systems, but not much about encryption and proper protection of information. I'm not declaring you clueless, but I think "flaming lazy" may apply because the explanation has been in these very forums at least 4 times now (probably more, but that's just the times that I personally addressed it in detail) so you shouldn't be that surprised that those in the know get by now just a tad tired of explaining the very same thing again and again and again (and ..) just because some people are either stupid or just too lazy to educate themselves.

          You have no idea how frustrating it is to see people express utter moronic statements as fact without ANY basis whatsoever in reality and without even the slightest attempt to verify the basis on which they make these statements. If I wanted that I'd go and listen to Donald Trump, not visit a forum which used to have people who were capable of at least using Google before they'd opened their virtual mouths.

          The discussion just assumes that Apple somehow magically has solved the problem of physical security on a budget, without giving any evidence on how that could work.

          No, this discussion is on the basis of many published facts, Apple's own internal security docs and many years of actual hardcore experience of protecting digitised information to levels we are not allowed to talk about in public. Oh, and where did you get that "on a budget" idea from?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

              The reason why physical security to protect keys used to be so costly is because pretty much only the military cared about stuff like that. When you have a combination of very low production volume and a totally price insensitive customer, of COURSE the solution will be expensive!

              When you have a combination of lots of money to throw at the problem to figure it out (i.e. credit card companies and Apple) and very high production volume, then solving the problem in a way that doesn't cost a fortune per unit becomes a lot easier to understand.

              1. Christian Berger Silver badge

                Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

                "When you have a combination of lots of money to throw at the problem to figure it out (i.e. credit card companies and Apple)"

                I cannot speak for Apple, but I can speak for credit card companies. Those don't care about fraud as they will either make profit of it (when it's undetected) or not loose money (when it's detected). That's why those companies are allowing obviously insecure technologies like biometrics or RFID.

                Ohh and with credit cards there's also a different threat model. They want to keep out the "casual" skimmer. Even when you completely clone a credit card you are not likely to get more than a couple of thousand dollars. So all you need is to raise the bar above that level.

        4. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

          > "When something seems that obvious, then it's likely that I've either completely misunderstood the problem at hand, or else there are shenanigans going on."

          The perp if that is what he was had the foresight to destroy some of his equipment. We don't know that he used pronto mail on them. We don't know if he used his own codes of methods that are traditionally more secure than book codes such as a book codes reading left to right right to left every other word and secret messages hidden in all that secret coding, foreign languages, slang and apparent spelling mistakes that only a very close friends would get even with cheat codes and cribs.

          The makers of the phone are suspicious that a government agency might have it in mind that the FBI can still use maccarthyism to make them open up all their phones for wiretapping like in the good old days when nobody suspected that the FBI is as corrupt as the people who burgngled Watergate or more successfully, killed the President of the USA in the even better old days.

          Shenanigans is putting it mildly and I am having my appraisal of corporate America raised as if by magic. It feels good. Some of the best advertising a joe Jobs ever accomplished.

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

        And if it were that simple it is likely the government would do exactly that and avoid an unnecessary dispute. My impression from various articles is that it cannot be done at all easily and with iPhones later than the 5C it is more difficult and with proposed later releases may not be possible at all. This is a marked contrast to Android based phones which, to my understanding, are likely to be vulnerable to the suggested approach.

        I may well be wrong and have seen (in a Register comment) a procedure described that had an aura of plausibility, but if I remember correctly it involved extensive interaction with the actual hardware rather than use of a VM copy.

        The general thrust of the article and many of the comments is that there should be no possible circumstances in which the government should obtain and exercise a search warrant against an iPhone that is protected by a pass code. I have seen nothing suggesting there should be a similar exemption for iPhones that have no pass code (as mine would be if I had one) or Android based smart phones, whether or not encrypted, yet the legal rights of the owners are entirely identical to those of iPhone owners.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @tom dial

          if it were that simple it is likely the government would do exactly that and avoid an unnecessary dispute

          You're overlooking the value of the precedent a decision in favor of the FBI would set, both for Apple and for other tech vendors, that a judge can force them to use their control over the OS to hack their own products.

          There are many who argue that the CIA/NSA could hack into the phone, but the Director of the FBI testified in Congress that they asked for help and were told they couldn't get into the phone either. It isn't as if a government official has never lied under oath to congress (remember James Clapper) so even though the suggested method wouldn't work it is quite possible to believe that the FBI may have avenues they are choosing not to take in order to gain this precedent.

        2. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

          "And if it were that simple it is likely the government would do exactly that and avoid an unnecessary dispute."

          You are assuming that the goal is to get to the data at all. Getting that data can be achieved by using technologies already available in that area. You can just solder out any security chip and dissolve the case to read it's internal memory. Yes this may cost you 100k, but that's also what Apple would charge them. The feasibility breaking low to medium cost physical security devices has been shown many times in the past. And the actually good ones won't fit into your phone.

          The big point about the "custom firmware" approach is that it'll greatly reduce the cost of such an attack. Instead of having to essentially break the device, such an attack could be done within minutes. Suddenly you can do it at the luggage handling of an airport. You could do it as part of random bag searches.

          My guess is that they didn't suspect Apple to cry out about this. However it is in Apples interest to cry out about this, even though they already complied to demands. Their goal is to claim that somehow their devices are more secure than the ones of the competition. And in the minds of their rather uncritical users they have succeeded.

    2. Law

      Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

      "It's likely I'm missing something."

      You are, but it's not your fault, it's a complicated issue, and like with many computer related issues it sounds easy enough to do without knowing all the details.

      I'm not going to attempt to explain why it's more difficult than cloning the encrypted data and brute forcing it, but it's been covered countless times over the last month on here and around the web.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

      I see a lot of the replies are dismissive, they don't actually say anything, preferring to say something like "This has all been covered before and you don't know what you're talking about". This is not helpful.

      It is possible that Apple have used the TrustZone facilities of this line of processors to ingrain security into the processor (although I think its targeted at people copying or altering code rather than data). Its also possible that these guys have a cheap and dirty hack based on a simple data entry and data compare ("more Apple's style", IMHO). None of us non-Apple insiders know for sure. Reading and copying the storage is also a possibility, its done all the time. But none of this matters. The FBI is out to generate a precedent which will give them unfettered access to all mobiles so they're not going to be swayed by technical arguments, they want Power, pure and unadulterated.

      Personally, I wouldn't trust the FBI. They have a poor track record with dissidents -- their idea of 'dissident' tends to be civil rights leaders and other notable politicians.

      Incidentally, I'm half tempted to get an Echo just to see what happens if I recite "Oranges and Lemons" to it -- anyone got one and tried this to see if it will complete the rhyme for us (and then order us to stand still in the center of the room)?

    4. Displacement Activity

      Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

      @Bucky2: no-one seems to have specifically answered your point.

      *If* the processor on the iPhone board (or any other embedded system) is generic, in the sense that it doesn't have extra mask processing to give it a unique attribute of some sort, then you're probably right. You just use the ATE equipment which was used to test the boards to extract the ROM data, create a VM, and you're good to go. However, many ROM devices will have a security bit which may be blown after manufacture to prevent this. To get around this, you may (or may not) have to get the chip off the board and read it (normally, ie not with JTAG/ATE equipment) in your own test rig.

      However, the processor may be customised. Older Intel x86 processors had a CPUID instruction which returned a unique serial number, for example. The problem with this sort of thing is that it involves an extra manufacturing mask and is therefore expensive. I don't know (or care, actually) whether Apple does this. If they do, the unlock algorithm presumably requires knowledge of both the 4-digit passcode and the processor ID. In these cases, you may have to resort to getting the top off the chip and examining it under an electron microscope to try to find the ID (which is not necessarily very expensive). If you have some knowledge of the algorithm you may instead be able to brute-force this in your VM.

      Anyway, having said all that, I've worked on various embedded devices and I would be very surprised (astonished) if Apple doesn't already have software that can boot up any iPhone without knowing the passcode.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

        @Displacement Activity

        Apple may very well already have software that will do this but they're not admitting this to the FBI and they have no intention of handing it over. It's more likely that they don't have this capability and don't want to add this capability given the fact that hackers will be all over any vulnerabilities given the popularity and capabilities of the iPhone with Apple Pay etc.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        @Displacement activity

        The processor IS customized. Every CPU from the A6 (used in the 5 and 5c) and on is a fully custom design done by Apple, so any references to the capabilities ARM CPUs have is not really relevant. Apple created their own design that implements the ARMv8 instruction set, which bears no resemble to ARM designed cores like the A57, A72, etc.

        In the iPhone 5S and newer they also designed a second ARM CPU on the same SoC which is the "secure enclave" that runs an L4 microkernel completely separate from and independent of the iOS kernel that only communicates with iOS used a tightly defined and highly limited communications channel so any bugs/exploits in iOS can't be used to exploit the secure enclave.

        1. Displacement Activity

          Re: @Displacement activity

          @DougS: different sort of customisation. If every processor off the fab line is identical, then running up a VM is trivial, as long as you can get your hands on a spec for the CPU.

          The problem is when each processor on a wafer is individually etched with something like a serial number, which can be used as a secret key. This is what is expensive, and is what Intel used to do on x86. This is what you'd need the electron microscope for.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: @Displacement activity

            Every Apple SoC has a unique ID (actually two) fused onto the chip, just like Intel.

    5. Radio Wales
      Black Helicopters

      Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

      Shuuuush!

      That is all behind-the-curtain stuff that you are not supposed to see.

      Anyone who is a spectator to a row between a US Federal monolith and an American Multinational giant and actually believes what is being carefully released to the general public (which includes 'Commie bastards' and 'terrorists') must be either:

      Five years old. or:

      Recently released from a secure mental establishment for the terminally stupid.

      Whether we will ever get to hear the truth about this little spat or not lies squarely behind the possible emergence of another Snowdenesque 'Whistleblower', and then even then he could still be a shill.

      Forget about it and assume that all of our data is accessible to anyone who wants to know it and we will all be in a safer place - not to mention quieter. Making stone-age type solutions to convey information not involving any kind of modern electric-based gizmos - in a similar way that real spies, terrorists and even Commie-bastards already do - is the way forward

  4. hellwig Silver badge

    The end of Apple

    I postulated this scenario before. If Apple is eventually forced to comply, the independent employees would have to take a stand. Of course, any of those who are not US citizens risk being kicked out of the country. Those that are US citizens should be able to simply walk away from the company (the government can't press an individual under the all writs act, can they?). But where does that leave Apple? Seems to me, the point at which Apple goes from refusing to create the GovtOS to being truly unable to create the GovtOS is the point at which the government demands Apple hand over all iOS related engineering documents and source code (probably the outcome they wanted all along). All iPhone users around the world will have to flock to non-US phone suppliers (don't switch to any Chinese ones, I'm pretty sure those are already spying on you).

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: The end of Apple

      1) The All Writs Act has an opt-out if the government's request is unreasonable, meaning they can't order you to commit to a major expense to support a government request. So it's quite possible that Apple could successfully argue that they have been subjected to an unreasonable request, between the cost of developing the revised OS, the loss of brand equity and revenue among security-conscious mobile device users, and the turnover and hit to morale among their engineering staff that would be forced to work on the security revisions.

      2) The FBI might think that Apple's execs are being unreasonable, but in fact the execs of major tech companies are among the feds' few friends in Silicon Valley. Front-line tech employees that I know are staunchly against the mass surveillance culture that has taken root in government. Meanwhile the execs have to look at their ability to get government contracts, not spend their time on legal proceedings vs. the government instead of running their companies, placate board members who might be concerned about legal expenses and exposure, etc.

      3) I doubt that the Feds could obligate someone who is no longer an Apple employee to work on subverting an Apple product. Imagine the security problems that would create for Apple and the FBI. And Apple and the Feds would have no hammer over those people if they decided to slow-play or sabotage the delivery of the revised OS. How can you prove that when someone says "Hey, I did my best to deliver the revised OS you wanted. It's not my problem that it crashes whenever you try to load in on the terrorist's phone." isn't lying?

      4) And non-citizens would not necessarily be kicked out of the country. If you have a green card, you have to be convicted of a felony to have that happen, and even then there is judicial discretion in sentencing. I very much doubt that quitting your job because you don't like what you are being asked to work on counts in that department. If you are an H1B, then you can get tossed out once you leave Apple, assuming that they initiated your H1B.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The end of Apple

        The US forces Apple, Apple's share price drops.

        Google / Facebook / Amazon's price also drops because they will be next.

        All of the SP500 growth is these 4 companies - so you trigger another "Great Financial Crash" - except this time you caused it.

        Then you try and run for president in November .

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: The end of Apple

        > if they decided to slow-play or sabotage

        This.

        The rate limiter self destruct thing is easily defeated if you forget to submit the PIN to actually test it.

        Maybe a couple of GOTO fail lines too many?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The end of Apple

        @Marketing Hack

        Excellent debating points :-)

        1) It's always going to be difficult for Apple to argue that it's an unreasonable burden. The modifications being asked for are comparatively simple, a few lines of code only, even if they target it at only this one specific phone. And any half decent programmer worth their salt could find the right module and make those changes whether or not they've worked on iOS development before. Even if Apple lost all their development staff, there would always be devs that could be hired in.

        2) I'm not so sure about that. A few months ago some senior FBI bigwig gave a public statement along the lines of them giving up trying to prevent atrocities, presumably because now it's too hard to get any useful tip-offs from Internet services.

        You can kinda see their point of view. There's 300 million Americans, I suspect they receive very little in the way of useful tip-offs from the public and they can't possibly snoop the old fashioned way to a sufficient extent way without America becoming a police state or the FBI falling foul of accusations of racial profiling, etc.

        Basically he was saying that as things stand right now the FBI is effectively there simply to pick up the pieces afterwards. Now Apple are, for better or worse, making even that hard.

        I see the FBI's decision to have this raised in a public court hearing as highly indicative of an organisation that's practically given up and is only too happy to pass the buck. The relationship between the FBI and Apple management had clearly broken down to the extent that the FBI decided to completely wrong-foot Apple, who I'm convinced never imagined that this request would ever become public knowledge.

        However, I don't think that the FBI has done themselves, the US public, or anyone else any favours leading up to this. Their case against Microsoft, trying to force a warrant for access to an MS data centre in Ireland bypassing the mutual assistance treaties that exist between the USA and Ireland, is a complete and utter joke. MS have every right to be pissed off with it because it places them in an impossible legal Catch 22 situation, and Ireland is pissed off because their sovereignty is being threatened. We all believe in the rule of law, but stretching it to that extent discredits the law. It is hugely unnecessary and it's not surprising that companies like Apple are not exactly well disposed to comply.

        The tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, MS, and Apple do need to take care. If they make too much of a point of not letting the Feds into their systems, they take on the implied responsibility for policing their own systems. But they don't do it very well.

        For example, Facebook recently got caught allegedly acting as a conduit for child pornography in a journalistic investigation by the BBC here in the UK. Facebook, an organisation run by a man whose wife has just had their first child, apparently does not effectively police the material it hosts to identify those who would harm people like his child. I hope MZ has paid attention to that point.

        If they truly succeed in locking out law enforcement then nasty people will realise that they don't need to go to all that bother with Tor anymore, they can just use Facebook or Twitter or iCloud or whatever. The policing job could then become a huge burden on the companies, and they'd be getting the blame every time they foul up.

        I said 'implied responsibility'. It's not written down anywhere, but it could be in some future news headline. All it would take is some hideous act that truly revolts the US (or any other) population to be somehow associated with use of their services and their reputations would be seriously harmed. "We don't let the Feds in" might be great advertising, but it's no good if everyone is saying "Ok, but you do let paedophiles in...".

        In short, locking out the Feds means they run a risk of losing their business to a nasty headline in the morning newspapers.

        3) If the FBI do win in court on this matter then any dev tempted to play silly buggers would be well advised to think carefully about their future. If the order is deemed to be a valid court order, impeding it or sabotaging it would risk the wrath of the court as well as the FBI. It'd pretty much be a straight-to-jail job.

        4) A lot of us non-Americans do find the deep seated distrust of the federal government, well, odd. There's no equivalent feeling in, for, example, the UK, certainly not to the same extent. I've had bizarre conversations with people who work for the federal government, yet hate it vehemently (and not just in a my-job-is-crap way). That's difficult to understand. It suggests that there's something wrong with the way America is run, yet most people I've spoken to firmly believe in the correctness of the Constitution and the way power is divided between executive, legislative and judicial branches even though it results in the existence of the Federal Government.

        The way I see it is that the governmental system makes it extremely difficult for anyone to get decisions made and laws passed on difficult and nasty topics (e.g. just how much snooping powers should there be). Yet in the fast moving dynamic world, decisions and laws have been urgently required. So it's been fudged. Repeatedly. Over many decades. Throw in the heavy duty lobbying that goes on and it's kinda inevitable that the System doesn't work well.

        Anyway, if Apple do lose the case and cannot persuade any of their American staff to work on it, they may have to depend on foreign employees to do the actual work.

        1. johnnymotel

          Re: The end of Apple

          Then there's the 'software is speech' argument, which could violate one of the constitution rights.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The end of Apple

          "It's always going to be difficult for Apple to argue that it's an unreasonable burden."

          No it wouldn't. The greater part of the burden would be the loss of reputation, a point the OP made & which you've ignored.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: The end of Apple

            @Doctor Syntax,

            "No it wouldn't. The greater part of the burden would be the loss of reputation, a point the OP made & which you've ignored."

            Well, to pay attention to that aspect of the OP's point, it will still be difficult for Apple to sustain such an argument. They would be arguing, to a Judge no less, that assisting a criminal investigation will do significant damage to their commercial outlook.

            I can't think of a less likely person to win over with such an argument as a Judge. They very much are Law and Order personified and Apple's argument would be close to a personal insult against the Judge. That's asking for a rapid finding in favour of the FBI and a strong rebuke from the Judge.

            Even if a Judge were to think about it twice, they would set the (dubious) projections of Apple's commercial losses in the US against the minimal impact this will have on their Global reputation. Assisting the Police With Their Enquiries is a social expectation in most other democratic countries. Apple's reputation would be damaged if they didn't comply with a similar request in the UK for instance. And the Judge would find that, globally speaking, Apple's business would hardly notice.

            And even if the Judge did acknowledge that maybe Apple would lose a few sales in the USA they would likely conclude their Order would also apply equally to Apple's rivals (Android, etc). Relative to the market Apple would suffer no impairment whatsoever.

            The FBI have been pretty clever with this one, even if they are making fools of themselves with MS.

            This is all part of what happens when a company finds that locking out Law Enforcement agencies means that they're taking on the role themselves. Policing of content has to happen for the protection of innocents, and if the cops aren't allowed to do it, the company probably will have to.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The end of Apple

              This is all part of what happens when a company finds that locking out Law Enforcement agencies means that they're taking on the role themselves. Policing of content has to happen for the protection of innocents, and if the cops aren't allowed to do it, the company probably will have to.

              That is a meaningless statement. What Apple has done is what countless companies, engineers, cryptographers and others have been doing for longer than we have the Internet: protecting information. That protection now supports our very use of the Internet for anything more than watching cat videos and receiving marketing email - every single transaction that has even the most remote personal or financial aspect NEEDS that protection to keep the bad guys out - bad guys, I'd like to remind you, that could also be involved in funding terrorist activities with the income they generate with theft of value and identities.

              Apple has invested in that process by making its devices as safe as possible to protect the owner. That that owner can be a criminal is not an argument to weaken the protection any more than you can ask a car manufacturer to stop putting in airbags to the car is less safe to use when criminals ram raid a shop.

              The FBI is attempting to damage the security of literally billions (due to the side effects of what this would do in law) in order to POTENTIALLY catch some people that should have been on their radar a long time ago as they have pretty much unfettered access to meta data.

              As far as I know, harming many people at once is a terrorist modus operandi so I want to know why the f*ck the FBI is now supporting terrorists.

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