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US vs Apple Inc: Who will have the upper hand?

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By Advik Gupta 

The United States government is trying to access an Apple iPhone of a shooter named Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernardino for which it requires Apple Inc.’s help. The government has ordered Apple to develop a special tool which will help it in breaking into the shooter’s iPhone. Apple on the other hand is not complying with the government’s request as such a move will threaten consumer security and would set a dangerous precedent for the future. They are worried that once they create the tool, the system will be compromised and lose its authenticity and there will always be a risk of it getting into the wrong hands. This is not the first time we are witnessing a ‘US vs Apple Inc.’ battle. Even in 2012, there was a suit filed by the United States that alleged Apple Inc. and five book publishing companies of conspiring to raise the price for e-books which was in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The issue is that if the FBI tries to access the iPhone by ‘Brute Force’ i.e. by attempting every possible code combination until the right one is entered, it risks losing the data forever as there is no way to check whether the iPhone 5c in possession with the shooter has the ‘ten-attempt security freeze’ enabled. Even Apple itself cannot provide access due to a random unique key that is generated. Hence FBI wants Apple to develop an OS update which would do away the security measure. Asking Apple to give a tool to bypass it is much more than asking it for a hack into its own software. It also means hurting the Apple brand.

The story takes a new turn as Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower tweets doubting the claims made by FBI that accessing the phone is so necessary. He said that FBI already has the communications records (stored by the service provider) of the suspect and also backups of all the suspect’s data until six weeks before the crime. He also explains that there are other ways of breaking into the device rather than getting a tool made by Apple and undermining its brand, although FBI denies this fact. Also since the iPhone was a government issued work phone (owned by the employee), this makes it highly improbable for Farook to use that phone to coordinate the attacks given that he made sure that he destroyed his personal phone before dying which means that the odds of finding useful information in the iPhone are very less.

Hence the question now is that whether the FBI really needs Apple’s help in breaking the device and even if it does, who will the lawsuit turn out to be in favour of. Here is a 1 minute video explaining FBI’s stand:

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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China, US Set To Take Action Against Each Other

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng's arrest

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President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

China and the US are set to take action against each other as tensions escalate over trade, cyber hacking and espionage as senior American law enforcement officials identified Beijing as the most serious threat to Washington’s national security, officials said.

China’s methods of non-traditional espionage, including their use of ordinary Chinese expatriates instead of spies at universities and businesses, and intellectual property theft, were explained by the officials from the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who briefed US lawmakers on Wednesday, CNN reported.

“As the US proceeds a whole of society response to this threat, we must address the vulnerabilities within our system while preserving our values and the open, free and fair principles that have made us thrive,” E.W. Priestap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Director of Counter-intelligence told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the US, but the future of the world.”

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) top national security official told lawmakers on Wednesday the administration was reacting to China’s “steadily increasing” economic espionage activity, which costs the US an estimated $225 billion a year.

From 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the DOJ’s cases alleging economic espionage by a state have involved China, and more than two-thirds of trade secret thefts have a nexus to China, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

“From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China’s publicly announced strategic goals,” Demers said. “The play book is simple: rob, replicate and replace.”

Priestap and his colleagues testified hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an interview with Fox News that the US believes Beijing was behind the massive cyber-attack on the Marriott hotel chain, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the assault was part of a broader Chinese operation that also targeted health insurers and the security clearance files of millions of Americans.

Also Read- Bug Spotted in Microsoft Office 365, Outlook

Those disclosures came a day after President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to use Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou who was arrested in Canada for violating US sanctions on Iran as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing, which for now is in a 90-day pause.

A Canadian judge on Tuesday night granted Meng a $7.5 million bail, while she awaits extradition to the US.

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng’s arrest. (IANS)