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 …

  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

          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.

              1. bazza Silver badge

                Re: The end of Apple

                @AC,

                "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. "

                No it's not, it's a completely meaningful statement. Go and ask Facebook what they're doing now to make amends for having been caught allegedly hosting a load of child pornography in private groups by the BBC, apparently for quite a long time. Do you think their response would be a public "We're doing nothing about it", or are they "Improving our systems to ensure this never happens again"?

                These companies cannot afford to become silos and conduits for illegal, unsavory and dangerous content. Let that happen too much and executives risk going to jail. Now that they're getting so much better at "protecting information" only they can police that information. Ask yourself the following. Of all the data held by Apple, Facebook or whoever, what is the socially acceptable percentage for child pornography? The correct answer is 0%.

                The FBI/NSA's snooping of old may or may not have been legal, but it did have the effect of doing the data policing on behalf of the companies.

                "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."

                I'm not convinced your train of thought that leads you to that conclusion is sound.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The end of Apple

                  These companies cannot afford to become silos and conduits for illegal, unsavory and dangerous content

                  Ah, but you're trying to put Facebook and Apple in the same corner. Nice try, but there is rather a lot of difference between a service provider whose main business is the acquisition and (ab)use of personal information to which it ALWAYS has unfettered access and a hardware manufacturer who has added services as an incentive to sell more, and who has done its engineering well because their business depends on it. Or, shorter: Facebook has access to every bit (literally) of data flowing through it, Apple does not unless it changes a password - which is what you would notice as a user.

                  What you're asking is that companies by default run surveillance for law enforcement, which is NOT their role because they have neither the authority for it, nor the legal protection (get it wrong and your business will be sued into the ground for slander). As a matter of fact, in most countries a company doing that would actually BREAK the law.

                  Companies DO have a duty to collaborate with law enforcement where possible, but that does not include destroying their own business because a few bad guys use their equipment too, otherwise you have found the PERFECT argument to finally fix the problem with US gun abuse, and anyone selling crowbars ought to really be shut down too.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The end of Apple

              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.

              I'm not sure from what planet you hail that you have missed all the statements in support of Apple's position but I'm not going to do the Googling for you. It may pay you to review what has been said so far about this case - even if you just stick to The Register's forums so far you ought to find enlightenment. In addition, it appears your view of judges and the legal system is, umm, in need of development - just to give you a small hint, the "burden" argument DOES translate into monetary aspects.

              Educate yourself.

              1. bazza Silver badge

                Re: The end of Apple

                @AC,

                "In addition, it appears your view of judges and the legal system is, umm, in need of development - just to give you a small hint, the "burden" argument DOES translate into monetary aspects."

                You're totally missing the point. It may indeed translate into lost profit for Apple, but on no account should anyone, least of all Apple, presume that a Judge will consider that to be the most important issue being considered. So far they haven't, or else this order would not be getting argued about. Judges balance issues, that's their job, and so far they've decided that money loses.

                Apple's approach to dealing with it is quite fraught with danger. By saying (more loudly this time) that money does matter they're arguing that law-n-order matters less. That's not going to sit particularly well with a Judge.

                I'm not saying this is a good situation - it's terrible. No one, not Apple, FBI, etc. is doing the US population any favours at the moment.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The end of Apple

                  You're totally missing the point. It may indeed translate into lost profit for Apple, but on no account should anyone, least of all Apple, presume that a Judge will consider that to be the most important issue being considered. So far they haven't, or else this order would not be getting argued about. Judges balance issues, that's their job, and so far they've decided that money loses.

                  Apple's approach to dealing with it is quite fraught with danger. By saying (more loudly this time) that money does matter they're arguing that law-n-order matters less. That's not going to sit particularly well with a Judge.

                  Fine. Now tell me where Apple lays down the money argument, because that's really not an issue for Apple other than an inevitable side effect of being publicly forced to become a government informant as if all of this was happening in former East Germany as opposed to in a nation that stubbornly wants to cling on to the illusion that they uphold democratic principles.

            3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: The end of Apple

              "They would be arguing, to a Judge no less"

              Maybe you haven't spent as much time as I have in courts.

              Arguing is what lawyers do. But it's each other they argue with. And when it gets above the first level of tribunal the lawyers for the appellant are essentially arguing that the previous judge was wrong. In this particular case that argument in respect of the first level tribunal is very easy to make: the warrant was issued without Apple even being able to argue their case at all.

              And the argument would very simply be that part of their reputation as far as their customers are concerned is their security. If they were forced to degrade that their product would be less valuable.

              "The FBI have been pretty clever with this one"

              You're right there. They have chosen a specific case where some of the arguments are eliminated because the suspect is dead and wasn't the owner. It's a case where they stand the best chance of getting a precedent set although some of their colleagues have already blown the "just this once" aspect by publicly lining up all the other cases. And if they got a precedent restricted to cases where the suspect was dead this would be very dangerous indeed: an incentive to shoot first and ask questions later.

        3. Rainer

          Re: The end of Apple

          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.

          Yeah, sure.

          Just replace "Federal" with "EU" and maybe you'll understand a bit better.

          I mean, Brits love the EU, right?

          I heard they like it so much, they're eager to cede most of the political decision-making to he EU "parliament" and the EU commission (practically falling over themselves to get it done).

      4. Public Citizen

        Re: The end of Apple

        If any Apple employee quits over this the government is faced with a difficult problem in trying to coerce them into doing the work they refused to work on while at Apple and resigned in protest.

        The work the government would be demanding would be covered under the employment contract with Apple as prohibited for a specified period after their resigning. The government would have to then make the argument in court that the national need justifies the voiding of specific contract provisions that courts have upheld for decades.

        The ramifications across business and industry would reach far beyond just Silicon Valley.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: The end of Apple

      Please tell me exactly on what grounds anyone could be kicked out of the country. "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime.

      1. PJD

        Re: The end of Apple

        "Please tell me exactly on what grounds anyone could be kicked out of the country. "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

        If you're one of the (many) Apple engineers on a H-2B visa, your ability to reside in the country is linked to you continuing to work for the company that arranged the H-2B for you. So if you quit Apple, you just quit your residence visa too.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: The end of Apple

          But who says they have to quit? They can just refuse to do that one particular job. Apple isn't going to fire anyone over that. Why would they?

          1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

            Re: The end of Apple

            @Gnaher729

            If Apple is forced to do this, they will ultimately fire anyone who is assigned to the project and doesn't or refuses to produce. The company is going to be under contempt of fort charges otherwise. Apple might reassign people who they really want to retain or who have really strong objections to the work, but eventually some poor group of schmos will be forced to get it done or be canned.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: The end of Apple

              @Marketing Hack - I suspect the acid test of the resolve of these engineers will be when the court decides in the FBI's favour and Apple's management have to change their tune. Currently, the engineers are doing as I would expect them to, namely, stand by their senior management.

            2. herman Silver badge

              Re: The end of Apple

              ...and they can just completely bungle the job and drag their feet and forty years later retire and go on pension...

        2. JoeF

          Re: The end of Apple

          That would be H-1B. An H-2 is for seasonal work, think picking fruit (maybe even apples...)

          And these people would not have much problems finding jobs at other tech companies. Having a resume which includes work at Apple is quite a door-opener.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The end of Apple

            ... Having a resume which includes work at Apple is quite a door-opener.

            What if there is no door? Your prospective new employer has to file a new H1B request. Are you sure that this request will be granted?

      2. John 104

        Re: The end of Apple

        @pissing off the FBI.

        Thats a good one. Have a loot at black panther history and the lengths that J.E. Hoover went to shut that organization down.

      3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: The end of Apple

        "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime.

        I very much doubt it is consequence free and it may well be a crime, or at least interpreted that way.

        I am sure there's an obstruction of justice angle, refusing to obey a lawful court order, contempt, and possibly treason and sedition if one digs deep enough. Oh and add on terrorism for shits and giggles.

        Besides, once your work mates start turning up dead, maybe a spouse and their kids, and you've had a couple of visits from some quite nasty men who will explain un-American to you in plain and blunt terms, you will probably have a change of heart.

      4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: The end of Apple

        While there has not been a crime in the eyes of the public and for any with any ethics or morals there probably is a feral felony floating around they can be nailed with. The bloated administrative state is plenty of nooks and crannies hiding felony charges that can be whipped out when needed by the sleazes in the US Department of (In)Justice. The book "Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" by Harvey Silverglate and Alan M. Dershowitz describes this situation and how one can nailed if the DA wants you in prison.

        As for non-citizens, the ferals can can revoke the visa/green card or toss them into the pokey. Revoking the green card would be kind because there would likely not be a felony record.

        1. Alperian

          Re: The end of Apple

          A crime in the eyes of the public? I think you haven't been reading the full news son. 14 people were killed and 22 seriously injured in the second-deadliest mass shooting in California after the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's massacre.

          One of the two killers' phones (whose contacts are obviously vital to the enforcement agencies) is locked., It is protected in that there are 10 attempts to unlock the phone and access the data after which it wipes itself and the data is lost.

          To any right minded person the solution would obviously for Apple to do the RIGHT thing and say to the FBI or whoever "give us the phone and we will get the data off [by whatever means] and give you the phone and the data back".

          BUT oh! no. Tim Cook and Apple turned it into a PR exercise whereby Apple's phones would be seen by all as the most secure and unbreachable.

          No one had to create a back door for the world. This is marketing baloney and if YOU had lost anyone in that shooting you would want law enforcement to have that info.

          The privacy world crew needs to stand down. There is no alert. Only a morally compromised Apple.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: The end of Apple

            "This is marketing baloney and if YOU had lost anyone in that shooting you would want law enforcement to have that info."

            At least one of the relatives has expressed support for Apple in this.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The end of Apple

        "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime

        But they would oh so love to make it one..

      6. notowenwilson

        Re: The end of Apple

        "Please tell me exactly on what grounds anyone could be kicked out of the country. "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

        In Australia all it takes is one letter from the minister and any dual national can have their australian citizenship revoked and then immediate deportation. No judicial review, no formal process that has to be adhered to. Just a letter from the immigration minister saying "I don't like you, get out". Sure, it's not exactly the same situation but let's not pretend that seemingly democratic countries don't often have some pretty nasty laws.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The end of Apple

        Guess who executes the criminal background checks required for those visas...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The end of Apple

      Apple do employ a fair number of British (head of Camera design & JIve obviously). Brits: I'd say generally, we're a stubborn, rebellious bunch if pushed to do something unprincipled - combined with a couldn't care less attitude, regarding the consequences of such actions. Doing "the right thing" being more important.

      Can be quite formidable characters. I think Jobs was a rebel at heart and instilled this in the folk that work for Apple. If those Engineers say they won't work on lessening security, I think they genuinely mean it.

    4. Captain DaFt

      Re: The end of Apple

      -(don't switch to any Chinese ones, I'm pretty sure those are already spying on you).-

      Why not?

      A. For most people in the US, China has little to no interest in spying on them 24/7. Unlike the US Government.

      B. Americans all carrying phones backdoored to China would be a sweetly ironic outcome to the US trying to force theirs in.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: The end of Apple

        @Captina DaFt,

        A. For most people in the US, China has little to no interest in spying on them 24/7. Unlike the US Government."

        Are you kidding? The Chinese government would love to be able to tap into any US phone any time they wanted. Why else do you think there is so much concern over allowing Huawei to supply core network switches in the American market?

        They do that inside China already (where they have complete control of everything), I can't imagine they'd pass up the opportunity else where.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: The end of Apple

          >A. For most people in the US, China has little to no interest in spying on them 24/7. Unlike the US Government."

          >>Are you kidding? The Chinese government would love to be able to tap into any US phone any time they wanted.

          The Chinese (corporations and government) are more interested in corporate and strategic espionage. So they would be interested in what was on the HDD of a US aerospace engineer, but not too bothered about Mrs Trellis's (of North Wyoming) holiday snaps.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: The end of Apple

            @Dave 126,

            "The Chinese (corporations and government) are more interested in corporate and strategic espionage."

            Sure. And if you worked for a corporation or did business with a corporation, don't you think they'd be interested in you?

            "So they would be interested in what was on the HDD of a US aerospace engineer, but not too bothered about Mrs Trellis's (of North Wyoming) holiday snaps."

            And without taking a sneaky peak first, how do you think they'd tell the difference? Look them up on LinkedIn?

  5. regadpellagru

    Still having faith in humanity

    Yes, I have, despite every single idiot in this world and there are many, particularly in big corporations (Lenovo, Microsoft, many others, including some I've worked for).

    For there are people ready to put their employment contract in the balance, in order to do what is right, for them, their employer, and their customers.

    There's still hope.

  6. chris 17 Bronze badge

    I'd say it's dragged on long enough and the Apple iPhone product is now fu@'d in marketing terms and brand loyalty.

    Any one want an anti democratic phone?

    A phone or tablet produced by a terrorist supporting company?

    Any product produced by a business that actively defies the law of the land?

    Do you really want to be associated with a law breaking company that assists terrorists, perverts and paedophiles in hiding their dirty secrets from the US Government?

    Thought not.

    This has already done long term harm to the Apple brand, all because the FBI want to pull the wool over people's eyes and set a precedent.

    Luckily when the Supreme Court rules in the FBI's favour, it'll just be iPhone models 5c and below that'll be susceptible to the FBIos. Apples forsight has seen to it that 5s and above are invulnerable to the method the FBI plan to use against the 5c and other manufacturers now know it's possible to build secure from government devices.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But the iPhone 6 and 7 aren't invulnerable from this setting precedent which says the feds can use a 200 year old law to force Apple to "do anything it takes to enable access" = fit a backdoor

      1. DougS Silver badge

        It isn't clear whether the 5S are newer are vulnerable to FBiOS

        The secure enclave is basically a separate computer, which runs separate software. Can iOS updates deliver new software to the secure enclave? I don't know, but if so, and if updates to the secure enclave can be made in a DFU mode iOS update (which I doubt) then it would just be a different update.

        However, Apple's upcoming change which blocks DFU updates entirely will block the All Writs Act angle. They'd be able to use that with iPhones they've already collected, but any collected with iOS 9.3 or later (or whatever version gets this) would be immune to that.

        That's not to say congress couldn't pass a law that obligated Apple and other tech companies have some way to access data on their devices, effectively mandating some sort of back door, but that's a whole separate fight.

        1. oldcoder

          Re: It isn't clear whether the 5S are newer are vulnerable to FBiOS

          All ARM designs have an internal rom that is used to verify and validate the boot... and maintain the "security features".

          And short of grinding off the processor chip cover, you CAN'T replace it.

          The only thing you can do is replace flash chip holding the client OS... but that won't bypass the security features.

          BTW, one of the other requirements is not to modify the flash... otherwise the chain of evidence will have been damaged.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: It isn't clear whether the 5S are newer are vulnerable to FBiOS

            But you can update the keyboard driver to copy all password keystrokes to FBI headquarters

          2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            "...short of grinding off the...chip cover, you CAN'T..."

            The don't 'grind' the cover off. They use strong chemicals to carefully dissolve it away. Of course the technique is first perfected on junked phones, not a critical target.

            If you spend some time watching hacker presentations on CCC.de Media, you'd see exactly this sort of hardware hacking being carefully explained.

            In one case, a strong light was focussed onto an individual non-volatile memory cell to change its state. That hardware bit flipping opened up the device.

            In summary, they often CAN...

            It's extremely unlikely that the iPhone 5C is the first example of perfectly uncrackable hardware in history. Other examples from the same era have been cracked fairly easily.

            The above is 'inductive reasoning', not formal proof. Like how I expect that the Sun will appear in the sky again tomorrow. Anyone can hold the opposite opinion, if they don't mind the increased risk of being later shown to have been wrong.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It isn't clear whether the 5S are newer are vulnerable to FBiOS

          That's not to say congress couldn't pass a law that obligated Apple and other tech companies have some way to access data on their devices, effectively mandating some sort of back door, but that's a whole separate fight.

          Not as separate as you think. A verdict in favour of the FBI would establish the first wedge to make this happen as it will allow the FBI to basically harass any company to death who is not offering them an easy backdoor.

          Worse, it will declare US based IT OEMs as untrustworthy to the rest of the planet. The services sector already has a massive problem thanks to Edward Snowden and Max Schrems, so I am frankly astonished that the FBI is now busy putting the nail into the OEM part of it as well.

          It's almost as if they don't really like Silicon Valley..

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It isn't clear whether the 5S are newer are vulnerable to FBiOS

          The problem is not which technical vulnerability would POTENTIALLY (let's stress this again) allow a backdoor to be engineered, the problem is the precedent it sets.

          As soon as the FBI wants another backdoor it'll dig up the latest CVE vulnerability report for the latest iPhone and wave that around to force another round of engineering, using the precedent it now sets.

          What the FBI is trying to do is to set a precedent that will allow it to lock any company not collaborating in never ending hurt by taking it to court again and again and again. There isn't a company in the world that will survive that, not in terms of finance but in term of brand damage and trust.

          I would want to know who dreamt up this strategy because this person is a threat to the safety of every person using IT in the world because this has an impact WAY beyond just Apple, and you cannot convince me that the original author of this strategy is not aware of that. I would ban that person from ever entering another country.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "But the iPhone 6 and 7 aren't invulnerable from this setting precedent which says the feds can use a 200 year old law to force Apple to "do anything it takes to enable access" = fit a backdoor"

        Only if Apple were to remain a US company.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          "Only if Apple were to remain a US company."

          That is not quite correct. "Only if Apple wishes to continue to sell such equipment in the US or sell equipment allowed by law to connect to US networks" seems to me a more likely direction for legislation. The US government may not care greatly whether Apple continues to sell iPhones that US search warrants cannot touch elsewhere, even if Apple were to remain a US based company.

          As an aside, I find it interesting and a bit jarring to see the number of people here and elsewhere who argue that a 200+ year old law should be presumed obsolete, while presumably holding fast to the enduring applicability of the Fourth Amendment, which is slightly younger.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            @tom dial

            The reason people have more respect for the 4th amendment than the All Writs Act is because the Constitution is the basis for ALL federal law in the US. It grants powers to the federal government, and nothing not specifically enumerated can be the subject of a federal law.

            I'm not really concerned with the age of the All Writs Act per se, only its constitutionality. If it violates the Constitution in any way, then those portions that do so violate it are unenforceable. It wouldn't be any more or less constitutional if it had been passed last year.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I'd say it's dragged on long enough and the Apple iPhone product is now fu@'d in marketing terms and brand loyalty."

      OTOH making a principled stand Apple's reputation may well have been boosted.

      "Any product produced by a business that actively defies the law of the land?"

      Maybe you don't understand case law. The law of the land on something that's likely to be appealed to the bitter end is undecided until the Supreme Court rules on it. Look on it as being the legal equivalent of Schroedinger's cat if that makes the idea easier for you to grasp.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Look on it as being the legal equivalent of Schroedinger's cat if that makes the idea easier for you to grasp.

        Hmm, Schoedinger's iPhone - I like it :)

      2. DougS Silver badge

        "Apple is fucked in marketing terms and brand loyalty"

        There are going to be some iPhone owners who think they are completely wrong, and will become former iPhone owners. There will also be some non-iPhone owners who think Apple is 100% right and will become new iPhone owners because of their stand.

        I think the "Donald Trump boycotters" and the "standing up for privacy switchers" (or that huge market of terrorists and pedophiles some idiots claim Apple is trying to attract) will pretty much cancel each other out, so I don't think this battle will have any noticeable impact on Apple's business.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @chris 17 - Apple's stand has made many consider how to support them. One way is buy an Apple product which has moved up my personal priority list no matter the outcome of the case.

      Apple is trying to protect their customers and in protecting the vast majority of good, honest people they end up inadvertently protecting some despicable scum. However, a version of Blackstone's rule about letting some guilty go free to protect the innocent from incarceration comes into play. Protecting your innocent, honorable customers from sleazes like the ferals and other assorted scum will on occasion protect the scum. I will take the deal even though it MIGHT make a success prosecution more difficult. Trampling on the innocent is a far more serious and important than the fact someone does not get the convicted of the crimes they committed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "However, a version of Blackstone's rule about letting some guilty go free to protect the innocent from incarceration comes into play."

        Trouble is, that rule has now hit extremes. Even ONE guilty going free could potentially have serious consequences for every other innocent out there. What happens to that rule when ONE man can utterly ruin civilization (think something with extreme force multiplication like a bio-weapon or a plague)?

        1. sed gawk Bronze badge

          Look, the way this works is;

          A) You can lock up every "guilty" person if you can accept an arbitrarily high number of "innocent" people wrongly convicted.

          B) You can ensure you never lock up an "innocent" person if if you can accept an arbitrarily high number of "guilty" people escaping conviction.

          C) There is no third choice.

        2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Most terrorist plots will involve several, unsavory characters some of whom are often known to authorities. Also, these are typically not spur of the moment events but planned. Traffic analysis of the meta-data will show who was actively communicating electronically in the run up. After the event, the fact there was communication is sufficient for one to get a visit and play a round of 20-questions with an agent. The visit is because they were in communication with the plotters. This information is available from the carrier.

          Phone records have been used for decades to established who was talked to whom and when. The only way to avoid this, decades old method is not to use electronic communications in the planning stages.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's weird how many people argue that privacy is pro-terrorist.

      Make no mistake, ISIS are rooting for the FBI in this one. If FBIos is created then ISIS will get a copy. They will go door to door looking for mobile phones, they will grab foreign aid workers, crack their phones and use the contents to target other foreign aid workers and their families.

      It's hardly coming out of nowhere, there were incidents in Afghanistan where the Taliban breached mobile phones remotely to send nasty messages to soldiers' families.

  7. Fink-Nottle
    Paris Hilton

    Any one want an anti democratic phone?

    A phone or tablet produced by a terrorist supporting company?

    Any product produced by a business that actively defies the law of the land?

    Depends. Does it come in rose gold?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In a dictatorship, you'll have whatever phone we say you can have...

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Any one want an anti democratic phone?

      An ideal democracy might be one in which private citizens can privately communicate with each other to discuss who to vote for. Or discuss forming their own political party and hold themselves up to be voted for (or not) by their peers. There have been in history cases of US government organisations infiltrating and smearing groups with political views that differ from their own.

      >A phone or tablet produced by a terrorist supporting company?

      Terrorists also use Casio watches and Toyota vehicles. Some might use Sure For Men anti-antiperspirant deodorant for all I know (I can image the advert now... "When you have spent all day trekking across a hot desert carrying a heavy anti-aircraft missile, you need protection you can trust!" )

      I notice that Donald Trump's iPhone boycott lasted all of about three days.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        The Casio watch and the Sure deodorant isn't going to make much sense. Toyota might have an issue, though, if they're seen as a vehicle of choice for anarchists since that'll paint them in a negative image (so do pseudo-realistic racing games showing them as crash-prone). It may be a strictly image thing, but image sells which means image affects the bottom line.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I guess some employees have looked in a mirror...

    They can still look at themselves and know they're trying to do the right thing. This is one of the those battles that will keep raging and when the government wins, everyone loses.

    I'm more worried about miscreants than what the government might find on my equipment, but if they get the backdoor (and we know they will), then any non-encrypted product is doomed and the company that made it will go with it.

    I do believe that many/most of these employees understand and support the Constitution and trying, in their own way, to defend it.

    And to those who would argue that the employees should go along with this.... would you? Would you do this knowing the implications in the long term? I wouldn't.

  9. John Savard Silver badge

    Source Code

    Usually, in a lawsuit, one cannot compel a performance. So rather than requiring Apple's engineers to act against their principles, handing over the relevant source code to the FBI would serve the purposes of the relief the FBI is seeking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Source Code

      Or they could resurrect the Un-American Activities Committee. Or have a witch hunt and blacklist anyone they didn't like. For the rest of their lives.

      You know, just like they do in dictatorships.

      After all, you're either with us or against us.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Source Code

      You just store the encrypted Source Code in a Country, on a Server where you can't be forced to hand it over.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Source Code

        "You just store the encrypted Source Code in a Country, on a Server where you can't be forced to hand it over."

        Microsoft's new German centre? How ironic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Source Code

        You just store the encrypted Source Code in a Country, on a Server where you can't be forced to hand it over.

        It's not that easy. If you contract a company to do "X", you have authorised that company to act in a certain manner - in other words, you have control over that contract as you set it up and are one of the parties. If the "X" you have contracted the company for is in conflict with local laws it can be construed that you acted deliberately to evade such laws. You can then be required to undo "X" or face consequences, for reasons that are hopefully not difficult to fathom.

        That trick has already been tried by financial companies, and judges as well as regulators take a VERY dim view of provable attempts to evade the law. In the case of a regulated activity it is quite possible that you may run into a lifelong ban.

        There is indeed a solution for Apple, but that will be long term. Short term there is no way to avoid the FBI shenanigans until the very end of the legal process.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Source Code

      They can simply force Apple to hand over their code signing key, then the Feds can outsource the actual coding to anybody.

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Source Code

      Only thr FBI probably won't get very far with the source code - they'd have to ask the NSA for help. And they hate that.

  10. Asterix the Gaul

    Apple are correct in refusing to co-operate with the FBI, no matter what the cost.

    Should they ever choose to do so,they will be sunk.

    Imagine a court action after someone is convicted as a direct result of such co-operation,or even a class action.

    Who would they sue,the FBI or Apple?

    Each would stand up in court & say "It wasn't us Gov,it must have been them".

    Courts will not pass judgement where a case is not proven.

    What will happen,is that Apple's reputation will be shot to pieces & the company will slide down the greasy pole.

    The FBI on the other hand will rub their hands in glee & the myth that they(America) are the leaders of the 'Free' world will also be manifestly exposed for the lie that it always was.

    The former STASI leaders of East Germany will be chuckling in their graves at the direction of Western 'democracies & their hypocrisy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ultimately, the law is the law

      Apple can take this as far as the Supreme Court, and have the coin to do this. Quite sensibly, they're not going to put their reputation at risk over a bit of mud slinging from a bunch of low-level enforcers who can't make Apple do shit.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. ma1010 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    You're missing one point

    Not saying I hope they do, please understand, but if the fed drops the hammer and actually orders Apple to do this, those engineers really won't have any choice. If they refuse to do as they are told, they could be held personally accountable and put in jail for civil contempt of court and left in jail until they change their minds about cooperating. That sort of thing doesn't happen a lot, but judges, particularly federal ones, do have that kind of power.

    Pissing off the FBI isn't illegal, but it's not recommended, really, if you like peace and quiet in your life. And pissing off federal judges is almost as dangerous as pissing off the BOFH.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: You're missing one point

      "those engineers really won't have any choice. If they refuse to do as they are told, they could be held personally accountable"

      Not if they cease to be employees. They wouldn't be allowed back into the building.

    2. Michael Thibault

      Re: You're missing one point

      >if the fed drops the hammer and actually orders Apple to do this, those engineers really won't have any choice. If they refuse to do as they are told, they could be held personally accountable and put in jail for civil contempt of court and left in jail until they change their minds about cooperating.

      There's a curious lacuna in the idea of corporations as being legal persons: they can't do jack, because they aren't corporeal. People, however, are. But people aren't the corporations they work for. Nor, in the final analysis, is the reverse true.

      The FBI and the DOJ will be going after court-supported, mandated directives for "Apple, Inc.". The staff at Apple are only implicitly covered by that; Apple (the C-level types, in particular) will be responsible, then, for cracking the whip or cracking open the piggy bank to get the actual talent to do the required deed(s). The sought-after court-backed order will not, per se, be enforceable against any individual--only a legal fiction. That's a knotty problem in its own right.

      Either way, getting to the point where there remain no further avenues of appeal for Apple means that the FBI could then pursue individuals within Apple. But that's a long way off, and likely they aren't really interested in the last mile anyway...

      What would be most helpful to Apple at this junction would be proof that the FBI actually already has the ability to get past the current sticking point they claim to be at--whether that ability is original in-house, or available through their friendly, neighbourhood NSAgent, or whatever... Such proof would certainly blow the lid off of the the FBI-initiated theatre that is now playing out.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: You're missing one point

        What would be most helpful to Apple at this junction would be proof that the FBI actually already has the ability to get past the current sticking point they claim to be at--whether that ability is original in-house, or available through their friendly, neighbourhood NSAgent, or whatever... Such proof would certainly blow the lid off of the the FBI-initiated theatre that is now playing out.

        I must admit that I'd love to be a fly on the wall in FBI HQ when something like that would leak..

  12. Overcharged Aussie

    I don't mind them refusing to work on weakening any security features.

    While they are not doing that can they fix the bugs in OS X with USB drives and also get on with the requested features in the finder so that they can display folders then files like every other operating system does. It is so annoying to be working on Windows, Solaris, Linux and then having to work on a Mac and redo mentally where all of the files/folders are.

    And before anyone asks, yes the finder add ons used to do this before El Capitan and in adding new security features they broke that.

  13. goldcd

    Oh really

    Sources blah blah blah tell me "Apple developers have been reluctant to work on certain iOS projects "

    I applaud Apple's corporate position, but don't' for one f'in moment think this article is based on a natural uprising of lowly devs.

    And neither do you, you disingenuous journalist, you.

    Hang your f'in head in shame.

    1. Pascal

      Re: Oh really

      No kidding, you can smell the astroturf from here.

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    How do the FBI crack one iPhone without being able to crack *all* iPhones? Somebody somewhere doesn't understand non-rivalnes of ideas.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >How do the FBI crack one iPhone without being able to crack *all* iPhones?

      The FBI's request was that Apple write a custom version of iOS that allows an unlimited number of pass-code guesses without locking the phone (currently, iOS allows you three guesses, then makes you wait thirty seconds for a fourth guess, then a minute for a fith guess, then ten minutes... etc), and then an FBI agent would take the iPhone in question to Apple. The FBI could claim that they were not asking to be given the custom iOS version, but ionly for Apple to use it under their supervision.

      However, Apple claim that if the do write said software, the doors would be open for the FBI to ask to use it again in future (the 'thin end of the wedge' argument).

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        The ferals have been liars because there are not just this phone but about 300 iPhones they want this done to. The goal is to get a court precedent in a case the ferals thought the public would overwhelmingly back them and get national attention. However they picked a very well funded target, Apple, who can go the distance with them and has the PR savvy to make average, dimmer than a Congress critter political hack DA look like the moron the DA is. Plus not all feral agencies are thrilled about the DO(In)J blundering and technical stupidity; strong encryption also protects national secrets.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          This case is about one iPhone and one search warrant, and one court order for Apple's assistance. There has been a decision (adverse to the government) in a similar case, involving one (different) iPhone, one search warrant, and one order for assistance. The Manhattan DA has stated that he has search warrants for 175 iPhones, each of which is the potential subject of a search order; these warrants would have been issued by New York state judges and have nothing to do with the federal government or the FBI. It also is reported that there are quite a few other similarly situated iPhones, split between federal and state or local jurisdiction.

          The notion that a corporation should interpose itself between law enforcement officials and lawful targets of court issued and constitutional search warrants is perverse and likely far more novel than the government's reliance on the All Writs Act, which Apple accepted some 70 times in the past.

          It would be a different matter if Apple could say honestly that they cannot provide the required assistance, or that they are no better situated to help than others, but they cannot and do not. Apple engineered and implemented the device security the government wants them to help bypass, and by virtue of their presumed monopoly of the ability to install it in the target iPhone are better positioned to bypass it than anyone else. They have opposed the order on legal grounds, and have conducted a PR campaign in which they suggest that creation and existence of the bypass software would pose a threat to iPhone owners everywhere, when in fact, because of the requirement that Apple sign iPhone software the marginal risk would be, in practical terms, zero. They also, but mostly others, have conflated the government's order with surveillance and wiretapping, to which it is essentially unrelated. Some have implied or stated that it would be an instrument of general oppression, which seems a bit of a stretch inasmuch as each iPhone would have to be in the government's possession and require assistance that Apple surely would not provide without being shown a properly issued search warrant.

          1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

            Wrong, it is about a precedent that can be used in other cases. If the ferals win then they can wave the bloody shirt of this precedent in any case against any IT vendor and say do it or else. The ferals picked a case they thought would severely mute public support for Apple because of the terrorism angle. The thinking was Apple would fold without much of fight because they would not have public support. The ferals were surprised by two things: Apple did not fold and many have rallied behind Apple. Apple's support is wider spread and more vocal than expected.

            To many here do not believe the feral liars because the ferals have shown themselves to be more interested in power and abusing that power than justice. A related example, the press reports indicate that Hildabeast and her cabal violated numerous espionage/security statutes but none have been indicted and the suspicion is none will be indicted. But let any of the peasants do 1% of what Hildabeast has probably done and you are toast.

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Indeed they can, and it is not at all clear why that should not be thought a socially acceptable outcome. Courts have issued search warrants for hundreds of years. Apple and some of their supporters appear to be asserting that they have a general duty to their customers (but not those of other companies) that supersedes the constitutional, legal, and procedural protections, and their limits, that have been in place for well over 200 years.

              I quite agree about Hillary Clinton, although that seems to be progressing, with her bootleg CIO being granted immunity, presumably for providing evidence he might otherwise refuse due to complicity. I suggest that it is a bit inconsistent to argue for federal prosecution in this case and oppose use of standard investigation techniques like search warrants in others.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about waterboardng ?

    It won't kill the phone and just give it the impression of drowning.

    They could also play some heavy metal music to it or show it some porn - 24/7.

    Sooner or later that phone will give up its secrets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about waterboardng ?

      Or they could intentionally inhale the water and commit suicide...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about waterboardng ?

        Or they could intentionally inhale the water and commit suicide...

        I think Apple is ahead of you on that one - doesn't it already have a humidity detector? :)

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: What about waterboarding ?

      They could ask Putin to stare grimly at the phone until it yields all its secrets.

      Although Chuck Norris may be more willing to help out.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: What about waterboarding ?

        "They could ask Putin to stare grimly at the phone until it yields all its secrets."

        Didn't John McAfee offer to do that a couple of days ago?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I smell fish

    Both Cook and the FBI agree that changing the iCloud password was a "mistake".

    How do you preserve data and prevent unknown 3rd parties deleting it if you don't change the password?

    How do you change the password if you don't know the AppleID details in the first place? If the FBI now had those details, why did they need Apple to give them a copy of the last cloud back up? Why did the FBI then wait for over a month before asking for further assistance?

    Cook claims that simply rebooting the phone at Farook's home would have initiated a new backup if the password hadn't been changed. How does Apple know that? Can they force backups? The last backup was 7 weeks ago, had Farook not been home for 7 weeks.

    Apple's advice to the FBI doesn't take into account the remote wipe feature. Are Apple able to disable it, Are they able to retrieve data in the event of it being activated?

    Cook's "interview" with Time makes the FBI look incompetent. The FBI seem to be happy with that. It's almost as if they want to lose...

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I smell fish

      Apple know how their phone backup system works, and clearly the FBI do not.

      Changing the password was an obviously stupid thing to do - when I change my backup password, my phone suddenly can't make backups! Shocking, I know.

      The remote wipe is a command sent from an Apple server, and is thus quite easy for Apple to block.

      I'm sure that Apple have done so several times after receiving a lawful court order.

      Apple have also already handed the FBI the content of this person's iCloud backup.

      The case really looks like it's either the FBI trying to cover up their incompetence and then ending up in really hot constituiinal water by mistake, or a deliberate attempt to subvert the rule of law.

      Personally I think it's both.

      1. imaginarynumber

        Re: I smell fish

        "Apple know how their phone backup system works, and clearly the FBI do not."

        Then why can't Apple explain how a phone that had been within range of a "trusted" Wifi network on numerous occasions had not backed up for ages? It seems likely that iCloud back ups had been turned off by Farook ages ago. Are Apple able to override user preferences and force back ups? Sounds like a backdoor. Perhaps that is why the Chinese insisted that Apple move their customer accounts on to Chinese state owned servers...

        "The remote wipe is a command sent from an Apple server, and is thus quite easy for Apple to block."

        Are you suggesting that the FBI can phone Apple moments after an incident and ask Apple to block access to an AppleID/iCloud without needing a court order? If that is the case then yes the FBI messed up but it would imply that Apple aren't as concerned about customer privacy as they would have us believe.

        "The case really looks like it's either the FBI trying to cover up their incompetence and then ending up in really hot constituiinal water by mistake, or a deliberate attempt to subvert the rule of law."

        I find it hard to believe that the FBI's lawyers would have worked on the assumption that Apple's lawyers would have forgotten to highlight any possible operational errors.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: I smell fish

          "Then why can't Apple explain how a phone that had been within range of a "trusted" Wifi network on numerous occasions had not backed up for ages? It seems likely that iCloud back ups had been turned off by Farook ages ago. Are Apple able to override user preferences and force back ups? Sounds like a backdoor. Perhaps that is why the Chinese insisted that Apple move their customer accounts on to Chinese state owned servers..."

          Apple's website states quite clearly under which condition an iPhone with "iCloud backup" turned onwill perform a backup:

          Your device is connected to a power source.

          Your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network.

          Your device's screen is locked.

          You have enough available space in iCloud for the backup.

          The FBI sat on that phone for 2 1/2 months. After they changed the iCloud password, no backups could happen anymore. My phone is often not connected to a power source, so it wouldn't backup. Since it was a works phone, maybe it was never set up to use the killer's home network. It was definitely never set up to use any FBI network. And maybe, just maybe, he had so many photos on the phone that the 5GB that you get for free on iCloud wasn't enough.

          Anyway, FBI fucked up, so any help that Apple _voluntarily_ gave them was for nothing. What you are stating here is nothing but either guesswork or nasty innuendo.

          About moving servers: You may not have noticed, but European countries also have a major problem with US companies storing data of European customers in the USA. That's because nobody in Europe trusts the f***ed up FBI and European governments fear that US companies might be forced to break European laws. Microsoft has just opened a datacentre in Germany where Microsoft cannot access any customer data - even if Microsoft is ordered by US courts to break German law.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: I smell fish

        There is no constitutional issue here, nor a violation of law. Not by the FBI, and not by Apple. I do not expect that there will be.

    2. Rainer

      Re: I smell fish

      How do you change the password if you don't know the AppleID details in the first place?

      It was and is a government-owned phone to begin with.

      It had mobile device management.

      They can wipe it and give it to someone else ;-)

      If you don't have MDM and the employee doesn't tell you the iCloud-password, it's bricked.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thankfully Apple is not a US company

    It's tax records show it's based offshore

  18. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...could likely unlock the phone without Apple's help..."

    "...security researchers....believe that the FBI....could likely unlock the phone without Apple's help, using either third-party engineers or tools developed by the NSA."

    I made this exact point several weeks ago and most commentards were arguing with me.

    "...third-party engineers..." = the sort of CCC.de hackers of embedded hardware

    I can only encourage those that still instinctively disagree with this point to please spend some time reviewing the device security topic presentation videos on the CCC.de Media repository. Such numerous amazing examples can assist with adjusting one's mental boundary of what's likely possible and what's perhaps still impossible. A few hours that is an easy and entertaining adjustment to an obviously-incorrect mental construct.

  19. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    If ...

    If the FBI could get NSA to do the job why is there all this pressure on the Apple and all this fuss?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If ...

      ... Precedent

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: If ...

      "If the FBI could get NSA to do the job why is there all this pressure on the Apple and all this fuss?"

      Some people think the NSA could unlock this phone. This may or may not be true; let's assume it is true.

      The NSA's job is to gather intelligence, not to help the FBI on their power trip. The NSA knows there is nothing of value on this phone. Helping the FBI by unlocking the phone would tell the world that the NSA can unlock iPhones. There is no way the NSA would allow this information to get out. It's much to valuable.

      If the NSA unlocked some terrorist's phone and discovered let's say the identities of some other terrorists, then nobody would ever hear about that. But these terrorists would one by one be found in a routine search by coincidence, die in an unfortunate accident, disappear on a diving holiday, and so on. Nobody would ever find out that the NSA unlocked a phone. If the NSA unlocked this phone for the FBI, we'd see it on TV an hour later. And two hours later all terrorists in the world destroy their iPhones.

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: If ...

      The NSA can not act on the behalf of the FBI with out permission of congress. Same as the CIA.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: If ...

        Gnasher79's comment explains the situation. The NSA probably can unlock the phone and poke around. However they do not want to admit to their full capabilities; no one knows for a fact whether they can or cannot. If they unlock this phone (or can not), then their capabilities are confirmed to world. Spookhauses, worldwide, would much rather have one uncertain of their capabilities and hopefully badly underestimate them. What can you local spookhaus do with an encrypted smartphone? None will tell.

        The blundering of the ferals actually threatens to expose some NSA/CIA capabilities that neither the NSA/CIA would like known.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: If ...

          They can still do it. All they would need is a cover story to keep the NSA's involvement out of it. Maybe the official who changed the password remembered it and the old one, allowing them to change it back and get an iCloud backup done, for example.

  20. Me19713

    Developers

    I wonder how these developers would like a stay in San Quentin? Last I heard, disobeying a court order can buy you a charge of contempt of court, which can lead to unhappy consequences.

    Of course, Tim Cook would just import a few additional battalions of H1B's the next day to fill the empty seats.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Developers

      "I wonder how these developers would like a stay in San Quentin? Last I heard, disobeying a court order can buy you a charge of contempt of court, which can lead to unhappy consequences."

      What court order? There is no court order that orders any developer to do anything. The FBI is trying to get a court order against Apple, which would be very hard to get. Getting a court order against individual developers would be _impossible_ to get. It would effectively be court-ordered slavery. There will _never_ be a court order against these developers.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Developers

        Tell that to that county clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses. You CAN be compelled to do things, that's the point sometimes of a court order.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Developers

          Kim Davis was a direct employee of a government, placing her in a somewhat different situation than an Apple developer would be with respect to the court order now in play. It is most extremely doubtful that any Apple employee could be jailed for contempt if he or she refused an order from Apple management to produce what the order demands, unless the government could show that particular employee to be essential to the task, in which case they almost certainly would need a new order specifically identifying the employee and required action.

  21. Stratman
    Devil

    Can't the feds just trace the fingermarks on the screen?

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      "Can't the feds just trace the fingermarks on the screen?"

      Good idea, and they may have actually done that. Unfortunately, even if you find out which digits are part of the passcode, you would only know the digits, and there are still 24 possible four digit passcodes with those digits.

      It has been reported that the iPhone is protected with a feature that will erase the phone after ten incorrect passcode attempts. We also know that they have used eight attempts. It is quite possible that they did what you said, found the four digits, took their chances and wisely stopped with two attempts left. (So if they ever found a note of the killer where he _claims_ he wrote down the passcode, they can try that passcode without erasing the phone. After that, the next attempt would absolutely have to be correct).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple coders not at work - what a shock

    Hundreds of patches still to do on iOS shows they don't work much

  23. Shane McCarrick

    So- from the little we know- the mechanism for wiping the phone is set at firmware level on the device. There are enough programmers out here- retired or otherwise- who could theoretically put together a custom firmware- copying cryptographic signatures etc in such a manner- that it would be indestinguishable for all intents and purposes. I redid firmwares back in the day to get around hardware locks (think dongles etc)- not that I'm suggesting its on parr with the Apple lock- simply that a little lateral thinking on the part of the FBI- rather than going in all guns blazing- might be more likely to get a satisfactory response.

    The best they're going to get is a mechanism to stop the countdown on incorrect PINs- which still leaves them with having to brute force unlock the phone- which is time consuming- and also- given they already have all the iCloud backups- very possibly of no interest whatsoever.

    The more you think of this case- the more you have to come to the conclusion that its a point of principle for both the FBI and Apple- neither of their issues are insurmountable- however, irrespective of anything else- nor is the issue on the table the actual issue at all.........

    Smoke and mirrors. Do we want cryptography- yay or nay?

    Anyhow- at the end of the day- anyone who wants to secure data- will secure it- perhaps not by the screen lock mechanism- but they will secure it nonetheless. We all use hidden partitions on phones these days- and low level encryption for sensitive data. We have TOR chat clients- not to mention the likes of Whatsapp- which while not secure- isn't backed up anywhere.

    The FBI are fighting a rearguard action- arguably on behalf of organisations other than themselves- and are completely out of their depths.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

    Google: three felonies a day

    If they can't get you for being a mobster, then they'll get you for income tax evasion. Etc.

    Three Felonies a Day.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

      The "three felonies a day" has been thoroughly debunked. The book that started this meme _did_ show a few cases where people committed a felony unknowingly, but these were all highly unusual situations. The average person will _not_ commit a felony unknowingly in their life.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

        The point of the book is there are many very vague feral criminal statutes that one can run afoul of. Many do not require any proof of criminal intent. Combine with unethical DAs and feral agents more interested in the number of scalps and you have a recipe for many innocent people being given a vacation in Club Fed.

        A fairly common situation is to question someone about phone conversations that happened several weeks earlier, get the person to state a factual error (such as the exact time/date of the call), then charge them with "make false statements" to the ferals. This particular statute does not require showing criminal intent only a fallible memory.

        Martha Stewart was convicted of exactly this when the charge of insider-trading collapsed. She was about a phone conversation with her broker and she apparently got some details wrong from memory. Never did the ferals actually state the misstatements were ever made with criminal intent or she ever denied the basic tenor of the conversation and approximate timing.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe its time to get rid of the FBI.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Something else will just take its place as there IS a legitimate reason for a federal bureau to investigate strictly-federal crimes, and yes there ARE strictly-federal crimes (like interstate wire fraud) that no state can assert jurisdiction because of Constitutional precedent (the Commerce Clause in this case). It's basically the cost of government. You either get corruption or anarchy. Pick your poision.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slightly inaccurate

    The engineers won't be summoned by the FBI and placed under legal duress. Apple as a company will be the one receiving the order.

    If after exhausting their legal options to resist, Apple executives still refuse to give an order down the chain of command to produce a custom build, they'll be held in contempt. If they do give such an order, and the engineers refuse, the engineers can expect to be disciplined and fired. If Apple refuses to discipline and fire them, treating it as a matter of conscience, those executives can expect to be held in contempt again for failing to make a genuine effort to comply.

    And the next order will be for the iOS source code and signing key, so the FBI can make it themselves, rendering the entire attempt of resistance moot and leading to a worse outcome all round. As it should be. Nobody can think themselves above the law, and punishment for contempt exists for just that reason.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slightly inaccurate

      2016

      "To Serve and Protect" has become "To Scare and Decept".

      The FBI is not the law. They're law enforcement and paid for by the people.

      People make the law and the FBI is trying to bend the law.

      The people have decided that the right to communicate in private is more important than protection from exagerated terrorism threats.

      It's time the FBI serves the people and protects their rights.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Slightly inaccurate

        Apple and the Arms Manufacturers are accomplices of the terrorists.

        They have the right to remain silent and cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves.

        Oops I forgot, this is the US. The preassure is all on Apple... The Arms manufacturers are fine.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Slightly inaccurate

      And who is going to do the work? I have a feeling that even well documented source code is going to take a long time to work your way through - especially if the engineers who know how this shit works have walked off the job.

      The FBI will have a few tens of million lines of code that in the wrong hands (theirs) would probably brick the phone.

      There may be data on the phone that will lead to hundreds of dead burn phones. Anyone who was interacting with this individual will have covered their tracks or be waiting with a bulgy shirt for a visit.

    3. Michael Thibault

      Re: Slightly inaccurate

      >And the next order will be for the iOS source code and signing key, so the FBI can make it themselves, rendering the entire attempt of resistance moot and leading to a worse outcome all round.

      TC: Ah, yes, the source code... Yes, the source... Er... um... there's a small problem with... the source code.

      JC: The court order, Tim! The AWA, Tim! We've been through all that. It's time to pony up.

      TC: Jim, you've really run us to ground, and there's just no room left to move, and no where really to turn. But...

      JC: But nothing, Mr. Cook. Hand it over!

      TC: I have every intention of handing it over. The small problem, though, is that the source code is now encrypted. And we have no idea who might have done it.. All we can do is comply with the court order, and leave it to you... Take it away, Jim-it's all yours now--,and make of it what you can. Good luck.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Encrypted bullets!

    Inscribe bullets with encrypted messages. Then shoot at each other.

    You'll have a method of communicating securely tgat is protected by the constitution.

    Problem solved!

  28. TheJokker

    So... We have a bunch of socialists who want the government to control the economy, dictate politically correct behavior, legislate morality but they don't trust the government/FBI?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not Socialists - it is called the commies.

      That's actually a really old scare campaign but obviously still works for the older demographic.

  29. Anonymous Vulture
    Boffin

    If you have the time

    Apple does publish the security model for iOS 9 and later. It makes interesting technical reading and if you truly want to understand the security model that everyone is discussing, its worth the time.

    <http://www.apple.com/business/docs/iOS_Security_Guide.pdf>

    Here's another from 2014: <https://www.apple.com/br/privacy/docs/iOS_Security_Guide_Oct_2014.pdf>

    Please read them, or any of the other explanations available here or through a quick search, before posting what is or is not possible for Apple or the FBI to do in this case. It will save you looking a little foolish on the internet, and the rest of us from having a heart attack over having to explain the situation for the nth time.

    I have gotten to the point I've printed the document and just hand it to people at the office who start in the whole subject.

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