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Privacy Cellphones Crime Encryption Handhelds Microsoft The Courts United States Apple

Bill Gates Sides With FBI In Apple Spat (ft.com) 389

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: Bill Gates has now publicly stated that Apple should cooperate with the FBI in the San Bernadino terrorist's phone unlocking case. He states that it is for this specific case, but seems to miss the point that there are other law enforcement officials waiting on the wings with their requests should this precedent be set. The war against privacy escalates. Setting aside the actual practicality of unlocking the San Bernadino phone, the teams that are emerging on this issue include some pretty strange bedfellows: John McAfee and Bill Gates on the pro-unlocking side, and Woz, Edward Snowden and even some of the victim's families on the con.
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Bill Gates Sides With FBI In Apple Spat

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  • Is that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:43AM (#51566685)

    the same Bill Gates who's companies latest offering backs up everly last secret it can find on your computer to server in the US?
    Bend over more Bill, it's not quite far enough yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kruug ( 4451395 )
      First off, Bill hasn't been involved with Windows for quite some time. Secondly, it does back anything up that you don't tell it to...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bondsbw ( 888959 )

      Indeed, the company that uploads the entire contents of your device to its cloud service and calls it a "backup feature".

      Oh wait, I thought you were talking about Apple for a minute. Carry on.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:43AM (#51567341) Homepage

      "...some pretty strange bedfellows: John McAfee and Bill Gates on the pro-unlocking side..."

      Actually, John McAfee is not on the side of forcing Apple to unlock the phone-- he's against that. He is on the side of don't force them to do it because he and his elite crew of hax0rz will do it for free [businessinsider.com] with no need to bother Apple or use that all-writs thing.

      And this solves the problem, doesn't it? Give it McAfee, he will screw up and erase all the data on the phone, problem solved.

      • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

        > And this solves the problem, doesn't it? Give it McAfee, he will screw up and erase all the data on the phone, problem solved.

        I cannot even begin to express how much I want the FBI to take him up on this offer.

        The idea of Presidential Candidate John McAfee's personal crack team of uberhackers being deployed in this case is just.... its everything a boy could hope for. Good work JM....go full Stark on that shit.

    • And that (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mitcheli ( 894743 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:52AM (#51567417)
      is why I don't have any Microsoft products in my home. And that I must begrudgingly use them at work.
  • Of course he does. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:43AM (#51566689)

    See, the billionaire class wants to make sure that we little people can be monitored and tracked.

  • by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:44AM (#51566693)

    The man is the founder of a company with a terrible privacy record and you are surprised? I am more surprised that he does not realize you cannot create a specific solution for this that is not also a general solution for all phones.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ebonum ( 830686 )

      Bill Gates is a guy who won't blink for a second when it comes to sending a human rights activists in China 10 years of hellish prison. He'll do ANYTHING to get in good with the government to make money. He's not even very particular about which government he'll hop into bed with. What do you expect him to say about a Muslim murderer who killed Americans?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Do you have any evidence to back that up? I mean, he was a dick when he was running Microsoft, but I don't recall him creating backdoors for the Chinese or being involved in sending activists to prison.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:01AM (#51566903)

      MS also earns hundreds of millions, if not billions, per year from government contracts.

      As Upton Sinclair wrote, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:22AM (#51567121)
      It appears to me that Microsoft is selling itself to secret U.S. government agencies. Who tried to kill the excellent TrueCrypt [grc.com]? The old original TrueCrypt web site [sourceforge.net] pushes people toward a Microsoft product.

      Can Microsoft be trusted? Here are some articles:

      Windows 8: NSA Backdoor Exploit in Windows 8 Uncovered [technobuffalo.com] (Aug. 22, 2013)

      Windows: NSA "backdoor" mandates lead to a computer-security FREAK show [consumeraffairs.com] Quote: "Microsoft Windows OS vulnerable to hackers, thanks to National Security Agency requirements." (March 6, 2015)

      Windows: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999 [washingtonsblog.com] (June 7, 2013)

      Windows 10, Microsoft hiding what it is doing: Microsoft has no plans to tell us what's in Windows patches [arstechnica.com]. Quote: "Each update is a black box, and it's going to stay that way." (Aug 21, 2015)

      Windows 10, Microsoft takes even more control: Windows 10 is spying on almost everything you do -- here's how to opt out [bgr.com] But, of course, Microsoft can change the spyware to avoid blocking. (July 31, 2015)

      Microsoft can't be trusted: How Can Any Company Ever Trust Microsoft Again? [computerworlduk.com] (June 17, 2013)

      Microsoft releases EXTREMELY buggy software: Microsoft Kills Many Critical Flaws, Some 0-Days, Un-Trusts One Wildcard Cert [slashdot.org] It is likely that there are many bugs Microsoft hasn't yet found. Are Microsoft products intentionally made insecure? (December 9, 2015)
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @12:06PM (#51567559) Homepage

      I am more surprised that he does not realize you cannot create a specific solution for this that is not also a general solution for all phones.

      Err, can't you? Since only Apple has the private key necessary to sign iOS firmware updates, AFAICT that means that Apple could release a nerfed firmware that would run only on an iPhone 5c with Sayed Farouk's phone's hardware ID, and refuse to run on any other device, and nobody would be able to modify it without breaking its signature.

      I understand there is also a principle of legal precedent to consider, but from a technical standpoint I don't see how it's impossible.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@wo[ ]net ['rf.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @01:39PM (#51568359)

        Err, can't you? Since only Apple has the private key necessary to sign iOS firmware updates, AFAICT that means that Apple could release a nerfed firmware that would run only on an iPhone 5c with Sayed Farouk's phone's hardware ID, and refuse to run on any other device, and nobody would be able to modify it without breaking its signature.

        I understand there is also a principle of legal precedent to consider, but from a technical standpoint I don't see how it's impossible.

        It's more of a barrier to entry.

        Right now, Apple has to develop the firmware. And while it's easy to disable the 10 PIN check, the FBI wants additional development to be able to programmatically guess the PIN.

        Once that is done, you have basically a master key. It doesn't matter that the FBI has a nerfed version that only works on one phone. One it's out, the barrier to developing it for other phones Is a lot lower - "We just want what you have given the FBI, just with this hardware ID". And so on.

        And then there's a whole case of cyberattackers wanting to look at the firmware and find ways to break it - through jailbreaking if need be. Imagine the havoc caused if this firmware was released as part of a jailbreak tool for iOS.

        In fact, the precedent for the All Writs Act is if something is already done, then law enforcement can ask for it to be done as well. Since the telephone company already uses pen registers for their own internal investigations (fraud, etc), then the FBI, local LEOs and others asking the phone company to put on a pen register on a specific line can do so as well. After all, the difference between the phone company and LEOs is who the data goes to in the end.

        And the FBI doesn't want static data. They want live data. Let's say they used GMail and other services - they could ask Google for the data, but that requires a warrant. They could ask Apple, then use the GMail app on the phone in question and get the data without a warrant. Sure, it's probably not admissible, but if you really needed to know, you could either subpoena Google later for an "official" copy of the evidence, or just find other evidence.

        And one final note - if you're comfortable with LEOs accessing your phone, then why bother putting a PIN on it? Or do you have crap on your phone that you don't want others to see?

        Tim Cook knows about privacy - if nothing more than to protect those who have yet to come out of the closet. Which even in these modern times still brings up punishments as severe as the death penalty in many countries. Even in the first world many people are unable to cope with learning their son/daughter is gay.

        So yeah, the phone owner's life could literally be on the line.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:44AM (#51566701)
    From his time as Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates was all about removing choice, and making computer users use Windows software by making deals with PC OEMs.

    .
    It comes as no surprise that Bill Gates gives privacy so little weight, with less privacy users have less choice and control.

    • From his time as Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates was all about removing choice, and making computer users use Windows software by making deals with PC OEMs.

      . It comes as no surprise that Bill Gates gives privacy so little weight, with less privacy users have less choice and control.

      I'm shocked, shocked to find someone on Slashdot that taking the chance to dump on Bill Gates.

      I don't really care who comes out on what side here. I'm more interested in how Apple and Google move forward with their OSes to prevent this from even being a question next time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by _UnderTow_ ( 86073 )

        ... I'm more interested in how Apple and Google move forward with their OSes to prevent this from even being a question next time.

        This. The thing that bothers me the most about this whole thing is that Apple declared that they couldn't unlock our phones, that with the new OS and default encryption your data is safe, when it clearly isn't. IMO, they should open the phone for the FBI if they have the capability, then fix whatever is needed so that they actually CANNOT comply in the future.

  • McAfee? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:48AM (#51566755) Journal
    Not that his opinion matters nearly as much as the others(he's still loaded; but he's more busy playing the Hunter S. Thompson of tech than being a tech leader these days); but I thought that McAfee's position wasn't so much 'pro unlock' as "Me and my hacker posse will hack the shit out of it!"; which is a vote in favor of getting the contents of the phone(not that anyone is really against that, if there were some non-problematic way to do it); but not obviously a vote in favor of the feds having the right to force Apple to make it so.
    • Re:McAfee? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:59AM (#51566889)

      I thought that McAfee's position wasn't so much 'pro unlock' as "Me and my hacker posse will hack the shit out of it!";

      I thought McAfee's position was more along the lines of "Look at me! Look at me!" with the idea that he could say any old shit, get the attention he craves and then not have to deliver anything as no-one in their right mind would let him near that phone.

      • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

        You don't need "that" phone. You need to get any iPhone and you can debug it and get whatever access to it in general way that will apply to similar hardware/software, most likely just by changing single byte in machine code instructions. It would cost time/money though. Apple already has access to it though through their own personal backdoor, so why should they be immune to court orders? No business or person is immune to it. They can only (try to) refuse to provide general access software, but every time

        • You don't need "that" phone. You need to get any iPhone and you can debug it and get whatever access to it in general way that will apply to similar hardware/software, most likely just by changing single byte in machine code instructions. It would cost time/money though. Apple already has access to it though through their own personal backdoor,

          No. The whole point is that "their own personal backdoor" does not exist.

          so why should they be immune to court orders? No business or person is immune to it. They can only (try to) refuse to provide general access software, but every time they will get court order to provide data from specific phone, they should be legally required to comply with court order.

          Again. Apple is not being asked to "provide data from the phone"; they're not even being asked to decrypt the phone. They are being commanded to write new software to the FBI's specification.

    • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

      Off topic a bit, but does anybody but me think the 'erase phone after 10 bad password tries' feature takes 'security' too far? I'm not nuts about a feature that lets any arbitrary malicious person with physical access to my phone wipe the whole thing by simply entering 10 bad passwords. How about just making them wait a few hours after 10 bad passwords - perhaps increasing that delay after each 10 bad tries until the correct password has been entered. That'd make a brute force crack impossible, but still

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        Off topic a bit, but does anybody but me think the 'erase phone after 10 bad password tries' feature takes 'security' too far?

        It would be a bit over-the-top if erasing the phone meant losing all the data you had stored on the phone. But then again, if you didn't have your phone backed up somewhere, dropping your phone into the sink would have the exact same effect. So of course you do have your important data backed up, right? In which case, having your kid brother accidentally wipe your phone is only a minor inconvenience, not a big disaster -- just restore it when you get your phone back.

      • Re:McAfee? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @12:48PM (#51567929) Homepage Journal

        It's a phone, a small, losable, stealable, breakable, device you normally store in your front pocket. If you're storing valuable information on your device and not backing it up anywhere else, you're doing it wrong.

  • Microsoft has the resources to reverse engineer Apple's protections and come up with a version of Windows that would run on iHardware. If Billy G wants to suck Uncle Sam's dick so badly, he should pony up and get on his knees!
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:49AM (#51566767)
    Main street is viewing it differently than tech world. People fear security more than privacy.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:54AM (#51566829)

      and this is why America is no longer the land of the free, its the land of the afraid.

    • by sbaker ( 47485 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:12AM (#51567009) Homepage

      The biggest problem is that people are reacting to the headline - not the back story.

      1) This was the terrorist's WORK phone. He tried (and failed) to destroy his personal phone - and the FBI have all of the data from that. If he didn't destroy the work phone, there probably wasn't anything important on it.
      2) The FBI already have his texts, IP address lookups, voicemails and phonecall meta-data from the telco's - so this is only stuff like photos and documents stored inside the phone.
      3) The FBI already have an iCloud backup from 6 weeks before the attack.
      4) If they hadn't screwed up and changed the iCloud account's apple id - they'd have a recent backup too - and this would be a moot point. They screwed up.
      5) If this was so important - why didn't they demand it back in December when they first got the phone? Any information on it now will be horribly outdated.
      6) We already know that this was not a big ISIS plot or anything like that. It was a 'lone gunman' kind of a thing...so it's unlikely that there is anything on the phone that would incriminate anyone else who isn't already incriminated.
      7) If they succeed - you can bet that Apple's next phone will make it impossible to circumvent the security with an OS upgrade by putting more stuff in ROM.

      Knowing those things makes it very clear that they are using a high-profile case to demonstrate a capability (both on behalf of Apple - and on the behalf of the legal system to compel Apple).

      The reason to do this is to provoke a debate that they hope will produce either laws or a legal precedent that they can apply to future cases - there is no other reason to fight Apple and public opinion.

      The reason MOST people are agreeing with the Fed is that they didn't take the time to look at the facts.

      • Exactly! The FBI has a boatload of information to sift through. All they would get would be 2 MONTHS between the last backup and the attack. Hardly a treasure trove when you consider this attach was PLANNED MONTHS BEFORE!
      • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @12:10PM (#51567587) Homepage

        The biggest problem is that people are reacting to the headline - not the back story.

        1) This was the terrorist's WORK phone. He tried (and failed) to destroy his personal phone - and the FBI have all of the data from that. If he didn't destroy the work phone, there probably wasn't anything important on it.

        Close, but no.

        He tried, and succeeded, in destroying his personal phones:
        http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016... [foxnews.com]

          The couple took pains to physically destroy two personally owned cellphones, crushing them beyond the FBI's ability to recover information from them. They also removed a hard drive from their computer; it has not been found despite investigators diving for days for potential electronic evidence in a nearby lake.

        Farook was not carrying his work iPhone during the attack. It was discovered after a subsequent search.

        So, the question is: given that they went to great lengths to destroy the phones and hard drives that they used in planning the attack, why in the world would anybody think that this phone they didn't think were worth bothering to destroy would have anything on it?

    • Main street is viewing it differently than tech world. People fear security more than privacy.

      That's to be expected. Generally speaking, people fear what they are told to fear and don't question the viewpoints presented to them. They think that if unlocking this phone will help catch terrorists, then it should be done. If that's as far as one's thinking goes, it makes perfect sense.

  • Sure, Billy Boy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:50AM (#51566779)

    Yeah we all know that once law enforcement gets access to something they NEVER ask again. The disengenuousness of people claiming this is only about one phone is astounding.

  • This argument is a sham and a shameless power grab by the powers that be. We are talking about someone who had the forethought to destroy his personal phone and computer hard drive to avoid the collection of incriminating evidence, yet he did nothing to obscure the $0.99 iPhone 5c that was issued to him from the local government. Does anyone really think he left any evidence at all on that device? Highly unlikely. He knew this device had no expectation of privacy (issued/controlled by government) and he mad
  • So it seems the Captains of (tech) Industry fall prey to the same partisan squabbles that keep the legislative branch impotent much of the time.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @10:55AM (#51566835) Homepage
    Anything Apple does for the US, it will be required to do in all countries it sells. That includes China.

    I am sure that China will wait till they have a clear terrorism/criminal case, ask Apple to give them the same software they give the FBI, then make a copy of it and use it on every single dissident.

    The San Bernidino phone SHOULD be cracked - by the government, not a private company. Apple should have nothing to do with the cracking.

    • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

      The Apple will be required to do it in countries like China anyway. Making excuses and delays in US court will not make them immune to totalitarian regimes at all. Who cares about US courts in China.

      They should had though about it when leaving backdoor in their phones allowing to install whatever software without owner's permission. Once they have left backdoor for themselves, now they have a line of people wanting to use it too, isn't this what was obvious from the beginning? They don't have and should not

      • They can tell China that they don't know how to do it and can convince china to build it themselves. At the very least this will cost China some cash, and it might delay it just enough for people to change phones.

        It is well worth the small amount of extra time/cash.

        • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

          It is sounds like silly excuse, Apple doesn't know how to update software on their phone??? ;) It will not fly, and you don't have any "change phone" options, all phones are the same or worse in this aspect. Government can always have access to it, assuming otherwise just leaves you exposed. China regime may choose to do it their own though to avoid publicity and catch its enemies by surprise. It is likely they already done it, they have plenty of qualified people in China to do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 )

      You don't think China doesn't already have the capacity? Something tells me that they fully understand how to do this. Remember they BUILD these things nearly exclusively and can easily obtain or reverse engineer these devices sufficiently to do anything they want.

    • Well this simply doesn't make any sense. Apple can't even offer the same encryption they offer here in the US in some countries that they consider markets, so I'd say your statement is not based in facts. And again, even Apple can't undo what they government did itself, the GOVERNMENT reset the phone, making it impossible to recover at this point, this is all nonsense but hey, it's working. How you ask? Well the average Joe Asshat now thinks the government can't crack into his phone (when they totally c
  • by Tolvor ( 579446 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:06AM (#51566953)

    I sure it is a coincidence that Microsoft is forcing Win 7/8 users to upgrade to Windows 10, which touts its higher security. Don't worry, if you have private information you can use the Microsoft recommended product BitLocker, made in the USA and subject to US laws. I'm certain there aren't any backdoors. I'm glad that Microsoft will share Office 365 users info with government agencies to protect us. After all, the FBI would never be abuse its power, like sharing accessing info on political opponents to discredit them. Pay no attention that Microsoft was somehow vulnerable to 'FREAK' encryption flaw (http://www.cnet.com/news/windows-vulnerable-to-freak-encryption-flaw-too/#!) - nothing to worry about here. I'm sure glad Microsoft is providing free email services like Hotmail. I'm sure Microsoft has the highest standards in protecting Hotmail users info and the times it has shared private information has been completely justified besides "you agreed to the service agreement".

  • No, he doesn't... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sumiciu ( 685713 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:09AM (#51566977)

    He disputes so in a video [bloomberg.com] in Bloomberg..

    Bill Gates, co-founder at Microsoft and co-chair at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses his view of Apple's battle against an FBI court order to unlock an iPhone belonging to a shooter involved in the San Bernardino, California terror attack and the need for a balance between privacy and government access.

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:10AM (#51566989)
    Clippy: Hey! It looks like you are trying to violate U.S. citizen's Constitutionally-protected rights! Would you like help?
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat. c o m> on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @11:13AM (#51567029) Journal
    I can see merit in Apple cooperating, but the biggest concern I would have about it is what happens if they are unsuccessful? What of a bug causes unexpected data loss? This isn't exactly a situation where they can get multiple chances because the crack is only supposed to be for one specific iPhone. What happens if developing this tool takes really long? Does Apple get paid for their time while this is being developed or do they only get paid upon completion? If the latter, if they find nothing on the allegedly decrypted phone, will the Feds refuse to pay? If the former, will they sue Apple because Apple cannot necessarily prove that their effort was entirely bug free?

    I completely understand Apple not wanting to do this, because there are far more ways it can end badly for them than positively, but I ultimately suspect that the only way they will ever see the end of this is if they try.

  • Of course Windows has a long tradition to cooperate with spying agencies.
     

  • I don't think the entire concept being fought over is some brand new idea, it's a classic idea with the obligatory "with a computer".

    So how has this been handled in the past? If you buy a brand new top of the line "uncrackable" vault say for a bank or casino in Vegas... and refuse to open it for police, they just... make do on their own right? Spend a few days or weeks with hammers, chisels and drills until it's open?

    Nobody makes the vault company drop by and show you the secret access trick, am I right?

  • What seems to be missing in all of this media-fueled discussion on this topic is that the iPhone doesn't operating in a vacuum. Assuming that the couple got their marching orders on this phone (which is unlikely since it was a work phone not a personal one), someone had to send those marching orders. That means that the Feds have totally failed to identify the source. Either that or the fact that our international surveillance capabilities have been totally borked in the last few years that they no longe

  • He states that it is for this specific case, but seems to miss the point that there are other law enforcement officials waiting on the wings with their requests should this precedent be set.

    The only real protection against such government intrusions is technological, not some wimpy legal precedent. Since the iPhone 5c apparently can be unlocked after the fact with the help of Apple, it is not secure. That problem isn't going to get fixed by legal posturing, it's only going to get fixed by fixing the phon

  • Apple should investigate whether or not they can restore the password (the hash of the password) for just this one user. This assumes they have backups that cover the relevant time period. I'm sure it's not completely trivial, but it's probably a lot less work than rolling out a one-off OS. If so, then the FBI could then take the phone to a trusted Wifi, plug it in and let it back up to iCloud. Apple has already turned over the 6 week old backup that's in iCloud and could easily turn over the new data t
  • The same Bill Gates of _NSAKEY fame?

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2016 @12:06PM (#51567563)

    Are you REALLY still feeling warm and fuzzy about putting everything into Microsofts cloud, and believing Windows 10 isn't really spying on you, and that Microsoft aren't fundamentally aligned to sell out your private data at the first opportunity?

  • Spat - a petty quarrel. This legal battle may set precedent that determines the course of security for the foreseeable future. It is hardly a "spat".

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