Trump administration weighs banning end-to-end encryption

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hacking
Encryption could be the next big conflict between Apple and the White House.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has banged heads with the Trump administration before, but its biggest clash could be yet to come.

According to a new report, senior White House officials met this week to discuss banning end-to-end encryption. This would affect a number of tech companies — including Apple, which has long touted its focus on user privacy.

iOS 12 defeats law enforcement’s GrayKey iPhone unlocker

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
GrayKey can still unlock iPhones but can no longer unencrypted their contents.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple has apparently won a victory in preserving the privacy of iPhone users. Previously, even if an iOS device was secured with a password, police could use the GrayKey unlocking tool to access the contents. But that changed with iOS 12. 

This hacking tool reportedly became nearly useless with the release of Apple’s latest operating system.

Feds force suspect to unlock iPhone using Face ID for first time

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VCSEL
No, this isn't the suspect in question!
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

According to a new report, for the first time in the U.S. and possibly elsewhere, law enforcement recently accessed a suspect’s phone by using their face to unlock Face ID.

The incident took place on August 10, when the FBI searched the house of 28-year-old Ohio resident Grant Michalski, later charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. Michalski was told to put his face in front of the phone, thereby unlocking it. This allowed agents to look through his online chats, photos, and other material deemed worthy of investigation.

Apple could face new encryption fight in Australia

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encryption
A bill in Australia could force tech companies to give law enforcement a "backdoor" to encrypted data that is part of a suspected crime.
Photo: orangesparrow/Flickr CC

Apple executives could face jail time and multi-million dollar fines if they refuse to hand over private encrypted data linked to suspected crime under a law proposed today in Australia.

The proposed change in telecommunication intercept law will be presented to parliament by Australia’s Ministry for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity. The law would require all technology companies, from Apple and Google to Microsoft and Facebook, to essentially create a so-called “backdoor” to access encrypted data.

Apple frequently forced to give customer iCloud data to police

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Police Car. Berlin, 2013
Apple strives to protect the privacy of its customers, but it's also required to comply with legal requests for information from law enforcement.
Photo: Stefan Draschan

A locked iPhone can’t be accessed without the passcode, and even Apple can’t unlock it. But Apple has to comply with government requests for iCloud information.

And there are a lot of them. The company received 3,358 requests to access personal data in the second-half of 2017, with about half of these coming from the United States.

Here’s how Apple is fighting GrayKey iPhone unlocker

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
iPhone unlockers are blocked if a week goes by without the correct passcode being entered.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple hasn’t found the security holes that iPhone unlocking tools use, but iOS 11.3 took a step that makes these cracking devices less useful. Police now have a limited amount of time to circumvent the user’s passcode before it becomes impossible.

This is part of an ongoing struggle between Apple and law enforcement agencies. The iPhone maker wants to protect the privacy of users, while police want access to information stored on devices used in crimes.

GrayKey iPhone unlocker could be a black market goldmine

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
GrayKey can bypass iPhone security. It’s supposed to be only for police but...
Photo: Ed Hardy/ Cult of Mac

More details have come to light about the GrayKey iPhone unlocker, and it turns out it’s even more likely to fall into the wrong hands than first thought.

This tool is very expensive, and is intended for use only by law enforcement, but stolen units could someday be available on the black market where they would be a goldmine for identity thieves.

Apple files official refusal to create ‘GovtOS’

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govtos
We doubt we'll see this at any WWDC keynotes. At least, we hope we won't.
Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

Apple has officially asked a judge to dismiss a court order requiring the company to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone at the FBI’s request.

We knew the legal filing was coming, but now we have the actual defenses Apple is using to defend its refusal to create what it calls a “GovtOS” that would let officials potentially bypass the security measures of millions of iPhones. The 65-page document released today details Apple’s history of assistance in the case — and the reasons it believes the original order is both bothersome and possibly illegal.