21st Century Wire
Earlier this week Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly rejected an unprecedented US Federal Court order that would force the company to decrypt an iPhone linked to one of the San Bernardino shooters – a move that would have vast implications…
PRIVACY & PROTECTION: Apple CEO Tim Cook challenges FBI court order to unlock private data of users (Image Source: Iphoneitalia)
Breaching Public Privacy
In a published open letter entitled, “A Message to Our Customers, ” Apple CEO Tim Cook strikingly opposed a recent federal court ruling that would unlock a phone that’s been connected to the San Bernardino Mass Shooting case.
The FBI ruling stipulates that Apple must provide access for one time only. However, cyber security experts and technology companies insist this is a virtual impossibility and a guarantee that cannot be made.
In theory, the decryption of the phone would be opened via a newly created operating system that would give the FBI a backdoor into the device. But according to many skeptics, this type of backdoor feature could set a very dangerous precedent, while possibly making it much easier for invaders (either government, or hacker) mining for data well into the future.
In addition, the new iOS (not yet in existence) proposed in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting would give US law enforcement agencies broader access to consumer communications and other private information according to many in the tech industry. This reality was confirmed by Apple’s chief executive Cook, who outlined the staggering privacy implications this past Tuesday:
“The FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”
In essence, the FBI’s court order demand appears to bypass basic privacy rights, and when seen in a bigger picture outside of the San Bernardino case, it could be viewed as a violation of the public’s 4th Amendment.
Challenging The Ruling
Over the past 48 hours, there’s been a social media frenzy, as Facebook, Twitter and Google have all expressed their support for Apple’s court battle with federal authorities. This has also included the often entertaining if not perplexing, self-proclaimed ‘cybersecurity legend’ John McAfee of McAfee Inc., who wrote an op-ed published with Business Insider, that dissects the potential fallout of the federal court ruling in similar fashion to that of Cook.
Here’s some of what the controversial cyber guru turned libertarian presidential hopeful had to say about the dire security circumstances facing Apple and the world at large:
“Using an obscure law, written in 1789 — the All Writs Act — the US government has ordered Apple to place a back door into its iOS software so the FBI can decrypt information on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.”
“It has finally come to this. After years of arguments by virtually every industry specialist that back doors will be a bigger boon to hackers and to our nation’s enemies than publishing our nuclear codes and giving the keys to all of our military weapons to the Russians and the Chinese, our government has chosen, once again, not to listen to the minds that have created the glue that holds this world together.”
Continuing, cyber expert McAfee, offered up a glimpse what could transpire in the event of a blackmail scenario if such a digital backdoor were to exist:
“In spite of the FBI’s claim that it would protect the back door, we all know that’s impossible. There are bad apples everywhere, and there only needs to be in the US government. Then a few million dollars, some beautiful women (or men), and a yacht trip to the Caribbean might be all it takes for our enemies to have full access to our secrets.”
‘ANTIVIRUS PIONEER’ – John McAfee, well-known American computer programmer. (Photo businessinsider)
McAfee then summarized his op-ed with a ready-made-solution to the FBI’s demands by offering his services, “I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team,” over a three-week period.
On the surface, a sensational gauntlet has been thrown down, calling for the court of public opinion to weigh in on a very important topic concerning privacy rights. But there’s much more to it…
This latest “privacy crisis” might be viewed through a more cynical lens, should readers choose to view this drama as a story featuring controlled opposition – especially when considering the pedigree of those supposedly opposed to the FBI’s recent court order.
Is it possible that Apple and others have staged opposition to this court decree as a way to bolster their public image, before eventually allowing the rights of private citizens to be abused? Both Cook and McAfee have direct links to companies plagued with security baggage such as Lockheed Martin and IBM, both of which have had their ethics put to question over the years.
While there is nothing conclusive here, the public should consider this other side to the story and eliminate inconvenient possibilities in an effort to find the reality of the present circumstances, even if high profile tech leaders may appear to be saying the right things in public, purportedly in the interest of the general population.
In an article featured here at 21WIRE from January of 2015, we learned of another privacy threat that should concern the public regarding biometric IDs – as facial and emotional recognition software has already been rolled out without public consent:
“More Orwellian technology is being rolled out, not just to make you into more of a commodity than you already are, but also to ‘profile’ your emotions. With no regulation on this issue, corporations are basically writing the privacy rules as they go along. Do you trust them? Where is this really heading?”
“In realty, they have no control over how third parties using their software might use images of people’s faces and digital signatures of your ’emotions’, storing, sharing and selling that data across macro platforms. Sure, it’s just another new wing of Big Data. Even social media data trawlers like Facebook has already begun moving into facial recognition of their users.”
So while it is compelling, and quite welcome to hear tech giants calling out the FBI’s overreach, it appears that many in the technology sector have already pledged support for a growing police state apparatus by virtue of developing privacy invading software. For the moment though, it appears technology innovators Cook and McAfee, along with other social media companies, seem to be working on behalf of the public’s interest, even though it could be out of concern for marketability rather than true worry about where the field of technology has been heading.
Apple’s iPhone and tablets introduced a biometric ID system with its thumb print login scan in 2013 – a system which will store millions of biometric identifiers on Apple cloud servers. It wasn’t long after the system was launched before hackers cracked the security for this biometric entry point, exposing another unspeakable privacy breach.
If nothing else, it has caused a sharp debate over this pressing subject.
‘DIGITAL DANGER’ – The battle for consumer privacy hangs in the balance over the recent FBI court order. (Photo vibratingupdate)
Problem, Reaction, Solution
According to the Guardian:
“For months, the FBI searched for a compelling case that would force Apple to weaken iPhone security – and then the San Bernardino shooting happened.”
“This carefully planned legal battle has been months in the making, US officials and tech executives told the Guardian, as the government and Apple try to settle whether national security can dictate how Silicon Valley writes computer code.”
This past December, those of us at 21WIRE, pointed out a number of inconsistencies relating the heavily dramatized San Bernardino shooting attack. In fact, the media driven shooting attack said to have taken place at the Inland Regional Center had a laundry list of details that didn’t add up.
After a week of whitewashed reports regarding the shooting, a media scripted ransacking of the alleged ‘shooters’ home (tampering with a potential crime scene) and eyewitness accounts that directly contradicted the official narrative from law enforcement, we learned that in the very room where 14 people were reportedly killed (along with 21 injured) at the Inland Regional Center, there was an “active-shooter” training drill/rehearsal, involving some of the victims almost a year before December’s attack to place.
Incredibly, a critical component that should be mentioned in the encryption battle involving Apple and the FBI, is that there were multiple eye-witness accounts that directly contradicted the terror-tale blamed solely on Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. In other words, we have an event largely hinged on a barrage of convoluted and conflicting accounts concerning the San Bernardino attack.
The eye-witness accounts near the scene of the shooting, never mentioned anything about seeing a female shooter, which 21WIRE also noted this past December:
“In fact, authorities did apprehend a third suspect but that aspect of the case, has seemingly gone down the memory hole, as has the very detailed eye-witness testimony from Sally Abdelmageed, (an Inland Regional Center employee) in a CBS interview with Scott Pelley, which clearly states that there were three white men in tactical gear dressed in black involved in the shooting event.”
“Abdelmageed’s account, echoed that of Juan Hernandez, who was interviewed shortly after the shooting incident by a local NBC affiliate, where it was described that “three white men in military fatigues,” had fled the scene in black Chevy Impala or SUV.”
“Despite all of this, CNN, ABC, FOX and all other media outlets on the scene – all pivoted, in unison, to validate authorities’ (the FBI) revised official ‘Jihadi Bonnie & Clyde’ story of “only 2 shooters – a husband and wife”.”
Additionally, a close colleague from Inland Regional Center, Chris Nwadike, stated that Farook had been acting normal and that “he was quiet,” and that he had not had a disagreement with anyone at the center the day of the shooting. Furthermore, the FBI themselves revealed that both Malik and Farook had not posted radical messages on social media which had previously been reported by authorities (and dutifully repeated across the mainstream media).
Even though the media eventually admitted that there were no ‘radical posts’, the idea of “social media postings” became a central story line suggesting that Malik had somehow influenced Farook into participating in the attack. Regardless of what really happened, it seems that the FBI had the opening it needed to try to force open direct access into personal devices.
Is it also possible the security agency wants access to the encrypted phone so they can plant an additional back story to a shooting case that never made any sense?
Food for thought to chew on in today’s digital age…
As the privacy vs. security battle moves forward, Reuters news agency reports:
“The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion on Friday seeking to compel Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to comply with a judge’s order to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, portraying the tech giant’s refusal as a “marketing strategy.”
The future of privacy hangs by a thread, as more and more divide and rule policies are being implemented at the expense of public freedoms.
More to come on this story here at 21WIRE…
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