Apple-FBI back in court, but why?

Mathew Sayer In the News

An iPhone 5S belonging to a New York meth dealer has brought Apple and the US government back together in court. The same piece of legislation that fuelled March’s high-profile legal dispute, the All Writs Act of 1789, was brought out to play again.

But things aren’t as straightforward as they could be. The phone in question is running iOS7, meaning that it does not have the sort of “go dark” encryption capabilities that James Comey was whining about last year. There is a common hack that is up to the task and costs just $200. The IP-BOX has been used widely by law enforcement, but its use in this instance is not being used on the grounds that it is, like sewing a small button, “very finicky”.

Security expert Jonathan Ździarski told Motherboard that the government is right to say that IP-BOX is a hacking tool foremost, but it is accepted as a method in the law enforcement community. Stranger still, Apple was ready to help the government gain access once they had an approved court order that included specific wording to facilitate the proceedings. Sign the line kind of stuff. Apple predicted a one or two week wait once that was through.

So why all the fuss? A simple case of outdated technology meeting its maker. It could be as Jenna McLaughlin has pointed out in The Intercept that the debate is shifting from whether encryption should even be allowed to when and how the government gets around it.

In the San Bernardino case the technology was too strong for the FBI and DoJ government, but not for the undisclosed private company. The FBI has requested an additional $38 million to strengthen its capabilities and shine a light in these new “dark spots.”

Many in the government are scratching their heads, wondering when and where they got left behind in technology. The answer is in 1995 when Congressional Republicans shut down the Office of Technology Assessment and 2014 when the voted against re-opening it.


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