Apple Gets New Encryption Patent as Apple v. FBI Feud Seemingly Comes to an End

appleBy Denise Kim

After the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on March 28 that it had successfully accessed the iPhone used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino terrorist shooting without Apple’s help, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now officially dropping its case against Apple. Earlier, the DOJ’s motion for continuance halted the ongoing feud between Apple v. FBI. The DOJ filed the motion on March 21, 2016, one day before the court decided whether Apple would be forced to hack into its own system. In its memorandum of points and authorities, the DOJ claimed that on March 20, 2016, an “outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone.” After successfully unlocking the iPhone, the government asked the federal judge to vacate the disputed order. Continue reading

Apple Encryption Under Fire: Judge Says FBI Can Force Apple to Hack its Own Encryption Systems

passcodeBy Brennen Johnson

The fight is back on between Apple and the FBI over encryption technology. In June 2014, we first covered Apple’s move to encrypt iOS 8 phones that could stump even the FBI. But the FBI wasn’t happy about it. Last November, we covered how the FBI sought a court order to force Apple to develop a method for breaking the encryption on these phones with “brute force.” However, the phone in that case ran older software that Apple could simply unlock, iOS 5, so the FBI wasn’t able to use the case as a stepping-stone to win the fight over encryption.

But as of last Tuesday, February 16, the heat turned up when a Federal Magistrate Judge ordered Apple to provide the FBI with software and technical support to help crack an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Authorities recovered the iOS 9 phone after a married couple, Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others last December. After the judge issued the order, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the order a “dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties,” while other tech giants, like Google, stated their own support for Apple: Continue reading

Lessons from the Silk Road

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.17.42 AMBy Juliya Ziskina

After a several weeks-long trial, a federal jury found Ross Ulbricht guilty of running and operating the online black market known as Silk Road on February 4, 2015. (We previously covered opening statements in the case here.) The jury deliberated for only three and a half hours before convicting him on all counts, including conspiring to sell narcotics, hacking software and counterfeit documents, and a “Continuing Criminal Enterprise” charge, commonly known as the “kingpin” charge usually reserved for organized crime bosses. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Ulbricht was accused of being the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” the “ringleader” of Silk Road, which he started in 2010 in order to sell hallucinogenic mushrooms. It then grew into a digital marketplace for narcotics and other illegal items like fake passports. Silk Road was cloaked in the Tor anonymity network to hide it from view and used Bitcoin as its currency of choice due its difficulty to track. The site was eventually shut down in 2013 when the FBI seized its servers and arrested Ulbricht.

The FBI claims that it was able to uncover the Silk Road servers via a software flaw on the site’s login page that revealed an IP address. That IP address then led to a location in Iceland where the Silk Road server was hosted. However, some members of the security community surmise that the FBI hacked the login page to force the IP address instead, which is illegal and could set a problematic legal precedent. Continue reading

FBI Created Fake Seattle Times News Story in Scheme to Implant Spyware on Bomb-Threat Suspect’s Computer

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 4.29.11 PMBy Juliya Ziskina

Should the FBI be permitted to impersonate the news media in order to nab criminals?

That is the question being raised after an American Civil Liberties Union analyst reviewed documents showing that the FBI created a fictitious online news story in 2007 under the guise of The Seattle Times. The FBI hoped that the story would entice a teen bomb-threat suspect to click on the link, and as a result implant spyware (known as CIPAV software) on his computer.

The tactic worked––the story appeared in the suspect’s MySpace feed, which lead to the arrest and conviction of a 15-year-old who had been sending bomb threats to Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington. However, The Seattle Times was unaware that the FBI created the counterfeit URL, or that it was using the Times’ brand to implant spyware on the suspect’s computer. Continue reading