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Long After San Bernardino, The Feds Still Rail At Apple’s Encryption

Remember the big dustup between the FBI and Apple over law enforcement’s inability to access any evidence on the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook? Well, law enforcement is still smarting over its loss in the court of public opinion–if not in the courthouse–back in 2016. (The feds eventually abandoned their legal fight to force Apple to create a special hack to gain access to the phone and instead paid Israeli company Cellebrite to break into it.) Apple hasn’t created a back door into the security systems of iPhones for law enforcement. And it’s even made things even more difficult for law enforcement by increasing the time needed to enter multiple random passwords on a target device in a “brute force” attack. One security expert told me that the state of the art in device security no longer focuses on creating impervious encryption, but rather on making it more difficult for hackers to attempt to penetrate the security that’s in place. The Conference on Cyber Security going on now in New York has proved to be the latest public forum for law enforcement to vent its ire over encryption. On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray complained that his agency was denied access to 7,800 suspect devices in the fiscal year ending September 30 because of encryption, calling it an “urgent public safety issue.” Wray disputed Apple’s contention that any kind of back door for law enforcement weakens security for everyone. (Most security experts agree with Apple’s stance.) He also had a request for the tech community: “We need them [private sector tech companies] to come to the table with an idea of trying to find a solution, as opposed to trying to find a way to build systems to prevent a solution,” Wray said . “I’m open to all kinds of ideas, because I reject this notion that there could be such a place that no matter what kind of lawful authority you have, it’s utterly beyond reach to protect innocent citizens.” He added: “I also can’t accept that anyone out there reasonably thinks the state of play as it exists now—and the direction it’s going—is acceptable.” Then on Wednesday, FBI forensics expert David Flatley expressed the frustration more bluntly, calling Apple “jerks,” and its encryption efforts the work of an “evil genius.” I asked the FBI if this was just a coincidence that two bureau honchos would come out so strongly against one tech company at the same conference on two consecutive days. I got no answer

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Long After San Bernardino, The Feds Still Rail At Apple’s Encryption

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