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US drops charges against Apple after FBI successsfully hacks terrorist’s iPhone

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Apple
Photo: pixabay.com

Washington: After successfully hacking into a terrorist’s encrypted Apple iPhone who was involved in San Bernardino, California shooting, the US Department of Justice has withdrawn legal action against the tech giant.

According to the media reports, a third party helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack the security function without erasing contents of the iPhone used by Syed Farook.

Farook, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, planned and executed the December 2, 2015 shooting that left 14 people killed.

“This case should never have been brought. We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated,” Apple said in a statement on Monday.

“This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy,” the statement said.

Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook, referring to the ongoing battle with the US government over encryption to unlock an iPhone, reiterated the company’s commitment to protect its users’ data and privacy.

Addressing a packed auditorium at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters, Cook said: “We have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy. We will not shrink from this responsibility.”

“We built the iPhone for you, our customers, and for many of us it is a deeply personal device,” he told the gathering during a special launch event this month.

On Monday, the federal government department, on behalf of the FBI, made the move at a US court in Central California, Xinhua reported.

The two-page court filing said that the FBI had accessed data stored on the iPhone 5c.

A week ago, a day before the DOJ and the Silicon Valley technology company were scheduled to appear at a hearing at the court, the government said it was trying a new way to unlock the phone used by Farook.

The smartphone has a feature that erases data after 10 unsuccessful unlocking attempts.

Successfully bypassing Apple in its efforts to look into the phone for information probably helpful in the terror attack investigation, the DOJ did not make public on Monday any details about who did help and how did it make through.

Apple had been resisting the order by Judge Pym since February 16, when she ordered the manufacturer to provide the FBI with specialised software to disable the security feature.

In an earlier TV interview, citing privacy protection for customers as a reason, Cook suggested that he would fight the case all the way up the US Supreme Court.

The argument was heated, as the government side fought on the ground that it was a work phone owned by the San Bernardino county, and the software would be in the possession of Apple rather than in the hands of FBI agents.

Both sides seemed to have failed to win full public support.

However, the DOJ’s decision not to go after Apple’s assistance effectively put the dispute to an end, at least for now.

And it is now Apple’s turn to figure out, and for iPhone users to wonder, how secure is the phone and data on the device.

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Cops Can Unlock The Security Password In The Upcoming IPhones

The FBI says it sought Apple's help in unlocking the encrypted iPhone

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Cops Can Unlock The Security Hole In Upcoming IPhones
Cops Can Unlock The Security Hole In Upcoming IPhones, pixabay

The upcoming iPhones and iPads will plug a security hole that the police and law enforcement officials have used to crack into the highly-secure devices in the past, Apple has said.

According to a report in The Fortune on Wednesday, Apple will soon update its current operating system that runs iPads and iPhones.

“Apple will add ‘USB Restricted Mode’, an option that disables the USB port for any kind of data transfer or interactions if a device hasn’t been unlocked in the previous hour,” said the report.

Any attempt to break into the device would need to plug it into a hardware-cracking device very quickly.

In most cases, law enforcement would be unable to react fast enough.

“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves, and intrusions into their personal data,” Apple said.

Cops
Cops, pixabay

Apple has had a strained relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the past when the US agency asked the tech giant to give it access to iPhones owned by terrorists and shooters.

Apple refused the FBI’s request to help it unlock the encrypted iPhone of the terrorist who executed the attack in San Bernardino, California in December 2015 that left 14 dead.

Apple said it would not break its customer’s trust and argued that the device’s encryption could not be defeated — even by the company.

The FBI later obtained a hacking tool that allowed the agency to access the contents of the terrorist’s iPhone.

A US court in 2017 allowed the FBI to keep secret the information regarding the tool that was used to hack iPhone 5C used by terrorist Syed Farook.

In another case, the FBI said it sought Apple’s help in unlocking the encrypted iPhone used by Devin P. Kelley who killed 26 people at a rural Texas church but Apple refused to help.

Refuting the FBI’s claim, Apple said it reached out to the bureau “immediately” to offer assistance in getting into the gunman’s iPhone and expedite its response to any legal process.

The data of most Apple devices is encrypted and can only be accessed by entering the correct passcode. If the wrong iPhone passcode is entered 10 times, its data is automatically erased.

Apple Gadgets
Apple Gadgets, pixabay

In its bi-annual transparency report in May, Apple said the governments around the world sent requests for device information on 29,718 Apple devices, with India asking for 27 device requests in the July-December 2017 period.

Also read: Apple Brings FIFA World Cup Closer to You

The governments and private parties also requested information on 3,358 Apple accounts and data was provided in 82 per cent of cases. (IANS)