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Encryption Android Censorship Google Government Iphone Your Rights Online Apple News Technology

Edward Snowden Calls For Google To Side With Apple On Encryption Debate (techinsider.io) 259

An anonymous reader writes: Edward Snowden, the most famous whistle blower in the world, is calling for Google to side with Apple and against the FBI in the "most important tech case in a decade." On Tuesday, the FBI asked Apple to help it crack the password on an iPhone belonging to a shooter in the high profile San Bernardino case. Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly responded with a public letter denying the request, calling it "an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers." Google creates Android, the most-used mobile operating system for smartphones in the world. Google has been nowhere near as firm as Apple about its stance on un-compromised encryption - Android is famously an open sourced platform that anyone can modify. Snowden issued his message in a tweet.
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Edward Snowden Calls For Google To Side With Apple On Encryption Debate

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  • My question is a side one. Apple has described that for every secure enclave in its iPhones (region of the core processing chips), they inscribe a unique ID -- completely unknown and irretrievable by Apple or its suppliers -- that serves as a private key during encryption operations. This way you cannot unlock an iPhone's contents without the correct passphrase/passkey and the phone's unique ID in your possession.

    How does a chip manufacturer inscribe a unique code into every chip? As I understand it, chips are produced by successive masks (film) with the circuit pattern layered on each mask.

    Is one of the masks getting printed with the unique set of codes? Are the masks printed and changed with every wafer, after the unique codes are changed and discarded? Seems like a very intense way of having to put a unique code on each chip.

    Or, if you remember film cameras from like the 80s/90s, where they could burn a date into the corner of the negative, do IC making masks have the ability to dynamically burn a changing code during exposure of the wafer??

    Thanks for any knowledge you can offer on this point!
    • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:38PM (#51530915)

      I dont know how Apple does it on its chips but other companies have done it via one-time-programmable fuses.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:38PM (#51530917) Homepage Journal

      I'm not certain about Apple but the way similar tech does this is to have read/write nvram but then burn an addressable fuse on the write line so it cannot ever be written again.

      • If it can be read, couldn't they create a clone with a new chip? Pardon my ignorance on this.

        • If it can be read, couldn't they create a clone with a new chip? Pardon my ignorance on this.

          It can't be read. The chip has a few commands, and "read the encryption key" isn't among them.

    • I don't know the specifics on how this works in this case but I know enough about electronics that I can speculate.

      One means to have a write once memory is with the use of "fuses", the fuse is a small etched wire that with enough current will open like a fuse. This would be done with a write at a voltage much higher than that normally used for a read. I would further suspect that to prevent someone from changing the written value the write function itself would have a fuse, blow that fuse and the chip is

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:51PM (#51531019)

      My question is a side one. Apple has described that for every secure enclave in its iPhones (region of the core processing chips), they inscribe a unique ID -- completely unknown and irretrievable by Apple or its suppliers -- that serves as a private key during encryption operations. This way you cannot unlock an iPhone's contents without the correct passphrase/passkey and the phone's unique ID in your possession.

        How does a chip manufacturer inscribe a unique code into every chip? As I understand it, chips are produced by successive masks (film) with the circuit pattern layered on each mask.

        Is one of the masks getting printed with the unique set of codes? Are the masks printed and changed with every wafer, after the unique codes are changed and discarded? Seems like a very intense way of having to put a unique code on each chip.

        Or, if you remember film cameras from like the 80s/90s, where they could burn a date into the corner of the negative, do IC making masks have the ability to dynamically burn a changing code during exposure of the wafer??

      Just to reiterate a point - the phone in question is an iPhone 5C which doesn't have a secure enclave. A7 SoCs and above with the secure enclave do all the PIN verification in hardware, enforcing the timeouts and the 10 incorrect guess wipes. But since the iPhone 5C doesn't have this, it's a software check that does it. (However, it doesn't mean Apple can just load on a new firmware update to a locked phone - doing so could wipe the phone as well).

      So it is theoretically possible to write code that allows unlimited guesses. Whether or not you can load it on a phone is another question altogether (and I wouldn't be surprised if you couldn't without wiping the phone).

      As for the SoC part - no, they don't pattern the masks with the ID. What happens is in practically every SoC in existence, there is a bit of memory that is one-time programmable. Effectively, it's an array of fuses (we call them fuses, but in reality, they're antifuses). You can blow the fuses which often sets various configuration options (e.g., blow one fuse, and the JTAG interface is disabled, blow another fuse, and you disable some block, or half the cache or whatever). You can also blow fuses that have special properties - e.g., a memory area that cannot be read by software, but hardware can access it. This is often done by initial programming software - you program in a serial number and the software blows the right fuses for that serial number. That software can also generate the hardware keys for encryption - by generating a random key using the key generator block (usually a random number generator) of the cryptographic engine, then using that to blow the key fuses. If the software doesn't report the key to the manufacturing hardware, then no one knows the key, not even Apple.

      OTP fuses can be blown during the hardware test phase of chip production as well. Special pads on the die that aren't brought out of the package can be used to access and blow the OTP fuses. This is typically done for the unique identifier portion

      For small lots, it's often easier to do it in software during production - customers will buy chips with areas of the OTP unblown to which they can use vendor-provided tools to blow them. Larger runs can be blown at the factory.

      The OTP array is not strictly a 2D array of fuses - there's metadata like a valid bit (the row of memory is programmed - used by boot firmware to determine if it needs to engage the encryption unit), a lock bit (to prevent bits from being written - stuff like serial numbers and unique IDs will have the lock bit blown to prevent people from blowing fuses in that row and changing the ID), the bits themselves and special wiring that connects each bit with the appropriate piece of hardware.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      The Apple docs use the word "fused" so I think they're using the same technique as PROM [electronics.dit.ie] circuits, except they're not directly readable. Essentially every bit is wired to a circuit breaker, you start with all 1s and intentionally trip some to burn in a fixed patterns of zeros and ones the first time you power it up. If they use the on-chip RNG to initialize it it's possible that not even the manufacturing facility knows what value it has encoded, only the chip itself. Looks like a real tin foil hatter design

  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {1relpek}> on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:18PM (#51530737)
    Ok, maybe this will be overstating it a bit for effect, but here goes:

    In a sense, Google as an organization is a bit more conflicted in its mission, because its mission is/was to make the world's information free and available. Along the way it came up with services that customers liked, and they found that customers also benefitted from not being hacked, so they have some good security along with those services. But from the start it's mission wasn't the front line of being a secure service.

    Apple is different. It designs and puts devices in people's hands which they come to regard as personal, inviolable, and private modes of communicating, and keeping information to themselves.

    Merely from a practical view, I would say that Google should support Apple, just because in the future, if this case falls, they may find themselves in the same position of having to help the government over and over with increasingly mandatory tasks...
    • by rsborg ( 111459 )

      ...
      Merely from a practical view, I would say that Google should support Apple, just because in the future, if this case falls, they may find themselves in the same position of having to help the government over and over with increasingly mandatory tasks...

      This assumes Google hasn't already caved to the likes of the NSA already. I mean, they've been on the Prism program since 2009... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      I wonder how much of Apple's recent slide in the stock market and Google's rise in stock value has to do with nefarious interference from the security state (which funds companies these days - they have their own incubator and funding arm)

    • In the case of Google all they have to do is do a pin code reset, and their in. I have a hard time believing that Apple would make it so their device is so easy to loose all your important data. I can put my belongings in a secure bank, but if the government has a court order it'll be opened up to them. What makes Apple so special?
  • Source code is speech. Compelling someone to create or modify source is compelling speech.

    The government is not going to pay the true cost of this operation. Suppose the developer ordered to create this code quits instead, as indeed he must do, to protect his personal integrity. Yes developers can be bought on the market but it takes months to years to bring a developer up to speed on a particular piece of software. This can costs millions. I doubt the government will pay the true cost for this.

    This w

    • Source code is speech. Compelling someone to create or modify source is compelling speech.

      Wrong.
      "Commercial speech is speech done on behalf of a company or individual for the purpose of making a profit. Unlike political speech, the Supreme Court does not afford commercial speech full protection under the First Amendment. " https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by anwyn ( 266338 )
        The speech at issue here, the compelled speech, will not make Apple a profit. See the rest of my argument. It therefore is not commercial speech, therefore your argument collapses.
        • Everything you do while working for a company is considered of commercial nature. You have no idea what you are talking about.
      • No, he's right. Read your own link and the four indicators for what is or isn't commercial speech. "Commercial speech" refers to things like advertisements, not to source code developed for use within a product.

    • By Citizens United, corporations have rights.

      For the love of.... Corporations had RIGHTS long before the Citizen's United case. All that Citizen's United did was recognize that Corporations had First Amendment rights (free speech rights) and could participate in political campaigns.

      I'm not going to adjudicate the SCOTUS decision here, but you guys who don't like the Citizen's United ruling do need to back down on the rhetoric a bit. This ruling does NOT grant a pile of new rights to corporations, it only established that they couldn't be barred fr

    • by iamacat ( 583406 )

      Interesting position, but one that has never been supported by courts. Even in a civil case, a company may have to write custom software to, say, find all employee correspondence containing specific keywords. You can argue before judge that the cost will prohibitive, but first amendment claims will not fly. Conversely, a judge can issue a gag order against discussing certain information during trial or investigation.

      You only have the right against self incrimination, but even then you may be compelled to te

  • Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:40PM (#51530927)

    I have long been one of those to poke fun at Apple fanbois and their walled garden. But Tim Cook's ethical stance is making me seriously consider my next phone choice.

    Public/government information should be free, but what's mine should stay mine.

    Come on Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Cisco, Twitter, Yahoo, Motorola - be Spartacus! Collectively you can face down the Leviathan!

    • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @07:00PM (#51531091) Journal

      I respect Apple's stance although I have no love for their business practices.

      To me this just says that they have crunched numbers and found this to be the fiscally sound stance to take. They are the richest company - I hope there is a reason beyond faux status symbols and "ooooh shiny".

      All of those companies will lobby whatever they think is best for their bottom line even if they're in opposition to everything else - even themselves.

      I'm sure Cisco would love to sell you network encryption options while also selling the equipment to allow mass collection of that encrypted data for attempted cracking. Why sell weapons to only one side?

    • I have long been one of those to poke fun at Apple fanbois and their walled garden. But Tim Cook's ethical stance is making me seriously consider my next phone choice.

      Public/government information should be free, but what's mine should stay mine.

      Come on Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Cisco, Twitter, Yahoo, Motorola - be Spartacus! Collectively you can face down the Leviathan!

      Er, I'm not sure who the Leviathan is here? Given the choice of privatised Leviathan that does whatever it likes, and public Leviathan that can be voted out if required, I'll choose the latter every time.

      • It is easy to spot the Leviathan. It is the one with civil forfeiture, guns and SWAT teams and claims the right to drone strike you without trial.

        • Only if your version of good guys and bad guys comes from children's movies.
          Real life is a little more complicated than that.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:58PM (#51531077) Homepage
    the challenge for providers is not how to comply with the law, but how to maintain customer trust while removing themselves from the burdensomme and dangerous position of having to be subject to it in the first place.

    apples enclave is...as loathe as i am to admit it as a non-fanboy....genius. The system allows them to protect users and in doing so protect their brand. At the same time, it thwarts legislative intervention because apple has taken such a hands-off approach to the way ios does pki.

    sadly though google doesnt have to stand with them on this. in fact it may benefit them not to speak out at all, as this would call attention to their own PKI system and its similar nature: absolve the manufacturer from the legal process entirely.
  • this will end in congress banning all non-backdoored encryption.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      That will be fun for the export market. "Gov inside" stickers on all US designed export ready turn key computer solutions.
      What can a US software or hardware developer say to their consumers?
      Trust US, its only the US federal gov, a few states and larger cities, security cleared contractors and other 5 eye nations that have all the keys to the entire product range?
      Ex staff and former workers are under a tight NDA never to share or sell the keys.... or methods..
      Under free trade deal other nations will j
  • I don't see why Apple and the government can't arrive at a mutually acceptable and proportional compromise.

    Apple could install an image without wipe limit, run a brute force attack of device and restore original image so government would never be in possession of hack image.

    Unless of course there is an ulterior motive like Lava bit fiasco where government forced production of encryption keys that compromised the whole system rather than allow vendor to implement per user data collection capability.

    In any ev

  • FBI asking Apple to provide them with a signed OS image which allows unrestricted brute force guesses [trailofbits.com] of the password/pin code on a single phone. This is very different from building a backdoor into encryption so that it can be reversed without knowing the password.

    Apple could provide an alternative OS image that checks for part serial numbers on specific phones named in a warrant. FBI would not be able to install that image on another phone, as removing serial check would also invalidate the signature.

    I th

    • FBI asking Apple to provide them with a signed OS image which allows unrestricted brute force guesses of the password/pin code on a single phone. This is very different from building a backdoor into encryption so that it can be reversed without knowing the password.

      The reality of import is vast majority of users have device passwords unable to withstand brute force attack. You can label it as something unrelated yet real world practical implication is indistinguishable from a backdoor.

      Apple could provide an alternative OS image that checks for part serial numbers on specific phones named in a warrant. FBI would not be able to install that image on another phone, as removing serial check would also invalidate the signature.

      What Apple should do is comply and then immediately issue a recall to fix defects in security hardware so this cannot happen again.

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