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Snowden: FBI's Claim It Can't Unlock The San Bernardino iPhone Is 'Bullshit' (theguardian.com) 242

An anonymous reader writes: Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose NSA revelations sparked a debate on mass surveillance, has waded into the arguments over the FBI's attempt to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI says that only Apple can deactivate certain passcode protections on the iPhone, which will allow law enforcement to guess the passcode by using brute-force. Talking via video link from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, Snowden said: "The FBI says Apple has the 'exclusive technical means' to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that's bullshit." Snowden then went on to tweet his support for an American Civil Liberties Union report saying that the FBI's claims in the case are fraudulent. Apple's clash with the FBI comes to a head in California this month when the two will meet in federal court to debate whether the smartphone manufacturer should be required to weaken security settings on the iPhone of the shooter.
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Snowden: FBI's Claim It Can't Unlock The San Bernardino iPhone Is 'Bullshit'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @07:34PM (#51669049)

    We know the FBI *can* unlock it without help, but we also know that this brings with it a certain level of technical risk that adjusted firmware would not (whereas the firmware would pose a certain level of privacy risk), and an attempt rate that is abysmal at best.

    The ACLU report specifically states that they can desolder the storage chip, copy the storage entire, put in a socket (no risk there), plonk the chip in, try, and if it fails - restore the storage to the chip (or a model with equal behavior and characteristics). Several of these steps come with risk, and all of it comes with it the fact that it takes time. A lot of time. Even with a rig that pops the chip out and drops another one in, with chips going on a merry-go-around for reprogramming after N attempts, it's a lot slower than a firmware that would allow an effectively unlimited number of attempts.

    Push comes to shove, they can try decapping it and looking straight at the bare metal. But as anybody who does forensic work would know, that's not exactly your go-to method; figuring out the password directly, or figuring out a pre-existing backdoor to bypass protection entirely, would be very much preferable. If disabling the maximum number of attempts is hypothetically an option as long as you can get the manufacturer to agree to do it, hell yes it's on the table.

    • Why do we care about time here again?

      If there were a legitimate need to 'get this done as quickly as possible' they'd have been in court and done with this whole deal by now. I don't care of government employees have to work hard.

  • Calling bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 )

    It's entirely plausible to me that Apple built something the FBI can't get into using their existing tools and techniques and Snowden has produced no evidence to the contrary. Don't make shit up.

    Naturally his fans are obligated to defend this now and build a fictional world view around it, condemning anyone that fails to accept their bullshit... It's all enough to make you hope for a large bolide impact.

    • It's entirely plausible to me that Apple built something the FBI can't get into using their existing tools and techniques

      It's plausible, but Snowden is probably right. The iPhone 5C uses its main processor to implement lockout and erase, and that processor is subject to hardware attacks; that is, the FBI can tie into the device's hardware bus, modify RAM on the fly, disassemble programs, etc. To be actually secure, security needs to be implemented in secure hardware. The iPhone 5C has some secure hardware

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "It's entirely plausible to me that Apple built something the FBI can't get into using their existing tools and techniques"

      You fail at rule #1 of engineering: Man can make it, man can break it.

  • Do you believe:

    (1) The FBI (and friends) can hack all popular devices, but they want us to believe they can't.
    (2) The FBI is using a politically convenient case to effectively outlaw encryption for regular citizens.
    (3) When encryption is outlawed, only outlaws will have encryption--by circular definition.
    (4) If you haven't done anything wrong, then of course there's no harm if the FBI knows EVERYTHING about you!
    (5) All of the above.

    Don't look at me. I'm so paranoid that I think Snowden is sincere and was de

  • Apple can do it now, but the FBI can't do it, yet, however enough time and money would change that.

    If you listen to just Snowden you will not learn the whole truth because he does filter the facts available to him in order to paint a picture that suits his political views, because he is an activist, and nobody should be surprised by that because all activists and lobbyists behave that way.
  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @10:28PM (#51669827)
    I happen to agree with Snowden. And one you recognize that the FBI is lying about being unable to break into the phone, and Tim Cook is lying about the phones being secure the way they are, you end up wondering what their actual motivations are. Might it be that Tim Cook doesn't like his company's products to get a reputation for being not secure, while the FBI likes people using insecure and breakable phones?

    (Note that Microsoft has already been forced to give its source code to the Russian security services, and it seems likely that Apple has succumbed to similar pressures.)

    • The FBI is getting this case in the news and will use it to write new laws which will force companies to comply. Apple is getting tons of positive publicity as they are still within the letter of the law.

      Both will be winners in the long term, and I find it rather unlikely that there will be any hard feelings when all is said and done.

    • The FBI wants to make a public spectacle to set precedent for the *required* capability of the government to search any phone (encrypted or not) when it is needed for law enforcement at any level. Apple wanted the request to be sealed, which would have made this case a one-off. The FBI refused and made it public. This is for the gov to get their way about backdoors into phones, nothing else.

      Apple is fighting it due to their public image and potential legal recourse. They have advertised their phones as b
    • The current hardware brute force method requires physical acquisition of the actual device.

      What the FBI is asking for would not.

      There's a pretty big difference in the 'lie' as it were.

  • No more needs to be said.

  • He Wouldn't Know (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @10:32AM (#51671223) Journal

    In spite of his god-like status among some of you, Mr. Snowden wouldn't know what capabilities the FBI has or doesn't have. He didn't work there, and he wouldn't have had a need to know, so he would never have been briefed on such. But, let's not let that get in the way of the Snowden gospel.

    • In spite of his god-like status among some of you, Mr. Snowden wouldn't know what capabilities the FBI has or doesn't have. He didn't work there, and he wouldn't have had a need to know, so he would never have been briefed on such. But, let's not let that get in the way of the Snowden gospel.

      Right! Because the FBI is unable to do what any lab that solders circuit boards and programs flash chips has the capability to do! If the FBI can't figure it out because they are too incompetent, then they can hire any one of these hundreds of companies that are fully capable to do it for them.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        In spite of his god-like status among some of you, Mr. Snowden wouldn't know what capabilities the FBI has or doesn't have. He didn't work there, and he wouldn't have had a need to know, so he would never have been briefed on such. But, let's not let that get in the way of the Snowden gospel.

        Right! Because the FBI is unable to do what any lab that solders circuit boards and programs flash chips has the capability to do! If the FBI can't figure it out because they are too incompetent, then they can hire any one of these hundreds of companies that are fully capable to do it for them.

        I wasn't arguing for/against their case, only that the article is basically just click-bait. For whatever it's worth, I side with Apple on this. Not because I don't feel for the victims, but because their loss shouldn't affect our freedom.

        • In spite of his god-like status among some of you, Mr. Snowden wouldn't know what capabilities the FBI has or doesn't have. He didn't work there, and he wouldn't have had a need to know, so he would never have been briefed on such. But, let's not let that get in the way of the Snowden gospel.

          Right! Because the FBI is unable to do what any lab that solders circuit boards and programs flash chips has the capability to do! If the FBI can't figure it out because they are too incompetent, then they can hire any one of these hundreds of companies that are fully capable to do it for them.

          I wasn't arguing for/against their case, only that the article is basically just click-bait. For whatever it's worth, I side with Apple on this. Not because I don't feel for the victims, but because their loss shouldn't affect our freedom.

          I was simply pointing out that copying a flash chip is not so difficult that one would have to know the inner workings of the FBI to figure out that they either have that capability or can contract it out if needed. Perhaps there are reasons that it isn't as simple as that, but from the articles I have read in the last day it seems pretty straight forward and something they can accomplish. It may be a slower road to keep replacing the chip with another programmed one, but we are talking capability not how q

    • He can read the same ACLU submission as the rest of us, which clearly shows that their claims are complete and utter bullshit. Which of course anybody with rudimentary knowledge of the hardware involved already knew.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Then they should have posted the ACLU submission. The point is that Snowden weighing in is like me making a claim about climate change...I've got an opinion, but I'm not an expert, and my belief shouldn't carry weight with anyone else.

        • It's in the summary...

          Snowden is a bit more click bait than the ACLU, mostly because there's people who absolutely hate the guy. As judged by your OP...

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