back to article Congressional group asks FBI boss Wray to explain Apple lawsuit

Ten members of the US Congress have asked the FBI to explain its battles with Apple, after doubts were raised over the extent to which criminals use encryption to "go dark" and evade law enforcement authorities. Criminals using encryption to evade law enforcement – "going dark" – is the foundation of the FBI's calls for a …

  1. whitepines

    Genuinely glad to see some sense return to US lawmakers, even if it is only 10. Those in the "universal backdoor" camp that seem to have forgotten about the oldest methods for security (involving paper and a fireplace) deserve a good ... ahem ... roasting...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      10 CongressCritters is a good start. Now if a few of the "big gun" Congress types or a major committee would pose these questions, there might be some answers. However, given the way things are right now, those answers might be classified and no one other than the committee will ever know exactly.

      While were waiting for an answer.... popcorn?

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Isn't this all rather moot now?

    given that PD's all over the USA are apparently forking out the $15 big ones for the device that makes Apple's security efforts rather redundant?

    Round 1 - to Apple

    Round 2 - to Law Enforcement

    Round 3 - ? {well, here's the bell. sit back people and enjoy}

    probable outcome?

    A bill presented before Congress to force Apple and everyone else to put in backdoors just for US Law Enforcement use.

    US LE will have a must luck keeping that secret as Apple does from keeping staff from leaking.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Isn't this all rather moot now?

      Round 4 - Consumers shun unsafe products...

      Oh, wait, lemmings never think about it, once it is a fait accompli.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Isn't this all rather moot now?

        > Consumers shun unsafe products

        Right... after all the complaints I hear about Apple products by the people I know that use Apple...

        They still use them.

        These are the same people that complain about TSA security theatre... and still fly.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't unlock 7800 devices

    I don't know why anyone would think that is surprising. Just because a vendor claims they can "unlock any iPhone for $1500" doesn't make it true. It might be that this only applies to ones using a 4 digit passcode instead of a password, or certain iOS versions, or requires they have iCloud enabled. They aren't exactly going to advertise their limitations and give people a roadmap for avoiding their "services".

    Plus there are innumerable hardware/software combinations in the Android world, including some that are supposedly designed to be secure like Blackphone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't unlock 7800 devices

      Are they even worth unlocking? At 1500 a pop to investigate the crime of being some annoying scrote who antagonised the wrong suit, it'd be preferable just to keep hold of it out of spite.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Can't unlock 7800 devices

        and if a hammer has been taken to them...

        (right Mrs. Clinton?)

        /me ducks expecting howler monkey down-votes

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Can't unlock 7800 devices

          @bombastic bob - In this case the phone was the county's phone issued to him. The problem was incompetence causing the password to be reset in such away the county could not access it. His personal phone, the one likely to have the info desired, was destroyed with hammer. Apparently, he slightly smarter than the average feral or local flatfoot, use effectively a burner device and then destroy it.

  4. streaky


    .. asking *all* the wrong questions.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Still...

      Um, I don't know, I rather like those questions.

      Which questions would you ask ?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Still...

        "I rather like those questions"

        and so do I. Good job [for once], Congress!

        Asking _THESE_ kinds of questions should help prevent legal overreach in the future [say 'mandatory back door']. Or, at least I'd like to think so...

        FBI overreach, in-fighting, and dishonesty with Congress (and the American people, for that matter): these are ongoing "swampy" problems, soon to be "drained" we hope!

      2. streaky

        Re: Still...

        Which questions would you ask?

        If we give you powers to force decryption via frontdoor (btw, no, it's not a backdoor) what's to stop people using crypto technology developed elsewhere that's outside the reach of said powers?

        If the answer is "nothing" - protip: it's "nothing" - what's the net benefit to the US of you having those powers?

        Protip #2: people stop buying Apple devices so, y'know, it's the opposite of a benefit.

        All the wrong questions.

        The answers to the questions that have been asked are effectively "because". In fact some of the questions that have been asked are essentially why aren't you decrypting things for fun and profit yet, you definitely should be. They're leading questions.

    2. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Still...

      ".. asking *all* the wrong questions.

      Oh, I don't know, they seem to be pretty sensible questions to be starting with.

      What would you ask?

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Likely answers

    "I cannot disclose that for operational reasons."

    Repeat for each question.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Likely answers

      Or, "That would be an ecumenical matter".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Likely answers

        Will the phone still contain data after they pull it out?

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Likely answers

      "I'm sorry Senator, I cannot recall"

  6. }{amis}{
    Black Helicopters

    Clearly the sky is falling!!!

    Common seance and asking the right questions in congress these are clearly the end days.

    I am of to the bunker to wait out the biblical flood that is coming.

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Rodger Winn and 'Working Fiction'

    What is often forgotten in this whole argument is often the communication decrypts are incomplete or missing key details. The decrypts supplement a through understanding of the strategies and tactics being used, traffic analysis, good old fashion intuition. Sir Rodger Winn called his daily analysis of the German U-boot efforts 'working fiction' because he realized he was always partially in the dark about the true German intentions, even when Enigma decrypts were available.

    In the movie 'Tora, Tora, Tora' there is a scene were Col. Rufus Bratton was puzzling over the Japanese diplomatic messages and other information. He concluded the Japanese were going to attack on Sunday 30-November-1941; only 1 week off. The US at the time was decrypting Japanese diplomatic messages as fast or faster than the Japanese Embassy in Washington at the time.

    The issue is not have the decrypts but having the full context of the messages. Also, depending on how much planning took place 'off the grid', the decrypts may not make much sense to someone not part of the plot. Given San Bernardino was a husband and wife team, I suspect most of the planning was face to face. Also, activities that should have raised an alarm were not reported because many feared being labelled a racist if they made a report. However traffic analysis would show who they were communicating with and that would warrant a visit and game of 20 questions. Most would be absolutely innocent.

  8. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    The $1M

    I bring this up every time, but the simplest explanation is that the foreign (Israeli) firm that was given the $1M to crack the phone had done previous uncompensated work for the bureau, and that this was its delayed payment.

  9. Nimby

    Going Dork

    I still want to know where the FBI gets off calling the use of basic security practices "going dark". It's not even a correct application of the old term, which describes an ominous sudden stop in communication that forewarns an event. Smashing the first two phones was "going dark". Protecting the third phone and leaving it to be found was at most a red herring, as well as "standard operating procedure". SOP for anyone with any common sense, not just crims.

    So not only is the behavior of the FBI in question, and the money, and their real and/or attempted effect on law, and if they have an ulterior agenda, but I am also questioning their lexiconography.

    Because, you know, priorities.

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