At the beginning of this year, Apple and the FBI again had a reason for conflict: law enforcement officers again needed to crack the criminal’s iPhone, and Cupertino refused to help.
The fact is that in December 2019, shooting occurred on the basis of the U.S. Navy (in Florida, in the city of Pensacola). The fire was opened by 21-year-old Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, a Saudi air force officer who trained in the United States. He shot three people and was killed himself.
The FBI was extremely interested in unlocking two iPhones owned by al-Shamrani. And although law enforcement officers had permission from the court to crack the iPhone and access data, both devices were password protected and encrypted.
Then Apple representatives said that they are cooperating with the investigation and generally always seek to help law enforcement agencies, but the company did not help the FBI with hacking the aforementioned devices and only reminded the authorities of its point of view on backdoors in software left specially for law enforcement agencies:
“We have always argued that there is no such thing as a backdoor for good guys.” Backdoors can also be used by those who threaten our national security and the security of our customers' data.
Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever in history, so Americans do not have to choose between loosening encryption and disclosing cases. We believe that encryption is crucial to protect our country and the data of our users, ”Apple said.
Now the US Department of Justice announcedthat the FBI technicians still managed to crack al-Shamrani’s devices. During a conference this week, FBI Director Chris Wray and US Attorney General William Barr criticized Apple for not helping investigators.
Ray said that hacking two al-Shamrani smartphones took four painstaking work of the month, and they spent a considerable amount of taxpayer funds on it. At the same time, he emphasized that the technology used for hacking is not a solution to the “wider problem with Apple devices”, since it has very limited use.
The Justice Department says they have now succeeded in linking Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani with an al-Qaeda branch operating on the Arabian Peninsula, and, as it turned out, he began working with terrorists long before arriving in the United States.
After this “breakthrough”, the FBI launched a counter-terrorist operation against one of al-Shamrani’s accomplices, and Ray emphasized that this could happen faster if Apple helped the FBI. According to him, despite public accusations by President Trump and Attorney General Barr, Apple did not participate in the investigation.
Wray: Because the crucial evidence on the killer’s phones was kept from us, we did all that investigating not knowing what we do now: valuable intelligence about what to ask, what to look for. If we had, our round-the-clock, all-hands effort would have been a lot more productive.
– FBI (@FBI) May 18, 2020
“Apple made a business and marketing decision and designed its smartphones so that only the user can unlock their contents, regardless of the circumstances.<…> Apple’s desire to provide privacy to its customers is understandable, but not at all costs, ”said the head of the FBI.
Ray also criticized technology companies in general, calling their actions hypocrisy. According to him, they loudly advocate for encryption, which protects even from a court order, but "they are happy to adapt to authoritarian regimes when it suits their business interests."
“For example, it is widely known that Apple worked with both the Chinese Communist Party and the Russian authorities to relocate its data centers and provide massive surveillance from these governments,” says Ray. A.
Not the first time
The situation was similar in 2016, when law enforcement officers needed to obtain information from the iPhone 5c, which belonged to the terrorist who staged the massacre in San Bernardino. Desperate to hack into the device on their own, the FBI enlisted the support of a federal judge and turned directly to Apple for this.
The company reacted sharply to this request, saying that the FBI, in fact, requires creating a special version of iOS with a built-in backdoor – a “master key from hundreds of millions of doors”. And although the scandal managed to gain considerable momentum, in the end the confrontation came to naught, as the phone was successfully hacked without the help of Apple (and it cost the FBI more than a million dollars).