Apple’s opposition to FBI request sets stage for broader fight over encryption

Apple’s chief executive officer has promised to appeal a federal court ruling demanding his company help the FBI get around built-in security features on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters.

But this case, insist US security and privacy experts, is not just about allowing investigators to find out more information from one Apple device seized from a slain terror suspect. Instead, they say, the outcome could affect anyone who uses American tech products because it could open the door for the government to insist on new mechanisms for weakening security on all consumer devices.

“While it seems like this case is only about one iPhone, it’s become the flash point in the fight over encryption and the security of the Internet,” says Kevin Bankston, the director of New America’s Open Technology Institute. “They are asking a company to build new tools to bypass the security of its own product. That’s a problem that would go far beyond Apple. It’s not even a slippery slope – it’s a sharp cliff.”
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If a US court can indeed compel Apple to do this, Mr. Bankston continued, “It can likely legally compel any other software providers to do the same thing.” Continue reading

Apple Fights Order to Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone

Apple said on Wednesday that it would oppose and challenge a federal court order to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

On Tuesday, in a significant victory for the government, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering.

Judge Pym ordered Apple to build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone.
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But hours later, in a statement by its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, Apple announced its refusal to comply. The move sets up a legal showdown between the company, which says it is eager to protect the privacy of its customers, and the law enforcement authorities, who say that new encryption technologies hamper their ability to prevent and solve crime.
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Apple opposes order to help FBI unlock phone belonging to San Bernardino shooter

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook says his company will resist a federal judge’s order to access encrypted data hidden on a cellphone that belonged to the terrorist couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino last year.

In a statement released early Wednesday, Cook said that such a move would undermine encryption by creating a backdoor that could potentially be used on other future devices.

“In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” the statement said. Continue reading

Cliven Bundy denied bail in Oregon following 2014 Nevada standoff

Cliven Bundy was denied bail on Tuesday at US district court in Portland, Oregon, where he is being held in connection with a 2014 standoff between armed militia and federal officers at his ranch in Nevada.

“If he’s released and goes back to his ranch, that’s likely the last the court will see of him,” judge Janice Stewart said, finding Bundy a danger to the community and a flight risk. She said that despite his lack of a criminal history, his refusal to pay grazing fees going back nearly two decades and his fomenting of the armed standoff made it clear that Bundy has little interest in complying with federal court orders. Continue reading

U.S. Hacked Into Iran’s Critical Civilian Infrastructure For Massive Cyberattack, New Film Claims

The United States hacked into critical civilian and military infrastructure in Iran to allow its operatives to disable the country with a devastating series of cyberattacks at a moment’s notice, a documentary will claim this week.

The targets of the U.S. hacking operations, covered by the code name “NITRO ZEUS,” include power plants, transport infrastructure, and air defenses, the film will state, with agents entering these protected systems nightly to make sure the attacks were still deployable.

The film, Zero Days, by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, which is set to premiere at the Berlin film festival on Wednesday, will claim that the U.S.-Israel “Stuxnet” worm — which destroyed around 1 in 5 of the centrifuges used in Iran’s nuclear program — was just a small part of a much larger set of offensive capabilities developed against the nation.

Citing at least five confidential U.S. military or intelligence sources with direct knowledge of the programs, the film claims:
• U.S. hackers working from the Remote Operations Center (ROC) in Fort Meade, Maryland, have penetrated huge swaths of Iran’s critical infrastructure, and were ready to launch disabling attacks alongside any military operation;
• Some within the State Department and the National Security Agency (NSA) expressed concern around the legality and ethics of some of these operations, which risked disabling civilian as well as military infrastructure;
• Israel modified the Stuxnet worm, targeted at Iranian nuclear facilities, making it far more aggressive, then unilaterally launched the new version. This was the one discovered by security researchers, who eventually traced it back to the two nations’ intelligence agencies;
• Intelligence from the UK’s GCHQ agency was used in deploying Stuxnet against Iranian facilities. Continue reading

The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people

“Ridiculously optimistic” machine learning algorithm is “completely bullshit,” says expert.

In 2014, the former director of both the CIA and NSA proclaimed that “we kill people based on metadata.” Now, a new examination of previously published Snowden documents suggests that many of those people may have been innocent.

Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA’s SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan’s mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person’s likelihood of being a terrorist.

Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA’s methods as “ridiculously optimistic” and “completely bullshit.” A flaw in how the NSA trains SKYNET’s machine learning algorithm to analyse cellular metadata, Ball told Ars, makes the results scientifically unsound.

Somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, and most of them were classified by the US government as “extremists,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. Based on the classification date of “20070108” on one of the SKYNET slide decks (which themselves appear to date from 2011 and 2012), the machine learning program may have been in development as early as 2007.

In the years that have followed, thousands of innocent people in Pakistan may have been mislabelled as terrorists by that “scientifically unsound” algorithm, possibly resulting in their untimely demise. Continue reading

Trump Is Right About 9/11

Donald Trump utters plenty of ugly untruths: that undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists,” that Syrian refugees are committing “all sorts of attacks” in Germany and represent a “Trojan Horse” for ISIS. But he tells ugly truths too: that “when you give [politicians money], they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” And that “the Middle East would be safer” if Saddam Hussein and Muammer Qaddafi were still in power.

His latest ugly truth came during a Bloomberg TV interview last Friday, when he said George W. Bush deserves responsibility for the fact that “the World Trade Center came down during his time.” Politicians and journalists erupted in indignation. Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” Ben Carson dubbed them “ridiculous.”

Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer called Trump a 9/11 “truther.” Even Stephanie Ruhle, the Bloomberg anchor who asked the question, cried, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close.

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