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Apple and FBI Court Appearance Postponed

by Alex Blewitt on Mar 22, 2016 |

The court appearance between Apple and the FBI, originally scheduled for later today, has been postponed a week until after Easter, following a request from the FBI to vacate the case. Following a last-minute "sudden discovery" the FBI has decided that it may not, after all, require Apple to create what has been called FBiOS or GovtOS:

The FBI has continued to research methods to gain access to the data stored on [the iPhone in the case].

...

On Sunday, March 20 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking [the iPhone]. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise the data ... if the method is vialbe, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple ... set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.

There is no other information as to who or what the outside party is, nor whether they would need to eat their shoe live on TV, but it comes a day after Apple released iOS 9.3 with a number of known security vulnerabilities with remote code execution potential. Apple has requested information from the FBI what those security vulnerabilities are, ostensibly to provide more security for iOS devices by fixing them but with a hint of calling their bluff.

Apple had previously filed a motion to vacate the order, with 16 Amicus Briefs and four Letters to the Court supporting Apple's position. Ironically, in the final court filing before the hearing, Apple suggsted that the FBI talk to other more competent security engineers to help fix the problem:

The government does not deny that there may be other agencies in the government that could assist it in unlocking the phone and acecssing its data; rather, it claims, without support, that it has no obligation to consult the other agencies.

The debate has continued to intensify, with Tim Cook starting yesterday's presentation with a barbed attempt to highlight their position:

We built the iPhone for you, our customers. And we know it is a deeply personal device. We did not expect to be in this position at odds with our own government. But we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy. We owe it to our customers and we owe it to our country. This is an issue that impacts all of us.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the draft legislation for ordering companies to violate security by building in backdoors continues:

President Obama warned a tech conference earlier this month against “fetishizing” phones and made it clear that he supports law enforcement efforts to gain access to encrypted information.

Administration officials have reviewed the legislation from Burr and Feinstein and offered suggested edits, the sources said, signaling that the White House may now be more open to a legislative approach.

Last week, Apple's Tim Cook appeared in a video interview describing the pandoras box of problems that would occur if the GovtOS was created, with some engineers threatening to quit instead of help write GovtOS. The FBI's sabre-rattling of demanding access to the source code for iOS appears to have not succeed, with Apple saying that the US Founders would be apalled by the request. In an earlier interview with the washington post Craig Federighi suggested that the FBI are working to roll back the work they have done to keep data safe from other criminals. 

InfoQ will keep up to date with the developments and report on the revised trial status after Easter.

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