FBI hacks another iPhone, iPod

After all the stink made by the FBI about getting Apple to hack the iPhone, last week the FBI hacked the iPhone themselves. There are still no details on how the FBI was able to complete the hack. Their original request stated that they were in need of Apple’s help in order to avoid permanently erasing the phone. Now that there has been one successful attempt, the FBI is ready to hack again, this time for a murder case happening in Arkansas.

Cody Hiland, a prosecuting attorney in Faulkner County, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the FBI had approved a request from his office and the Conway Police Department to crack an iPhone and an iPod. The devices belong to two teenagers that are being accused of murder. The day after the FBI announced that they had hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, an Arkansas judge agreed to postpone the trial of 18-year-old Hunter Drexler. Prosecutors in this case believe the devices may hold evidence related to the murders last July of Robert and Patricia Cogdell.

The actions of the government may be setting a dangerous precedent. Apple’s concern over hacking their own devices laid not only in their integrity as a company, but the privacy expected by their users. Now that the FBI has hacked the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone, and helping to do the same for other cases, there will be an expectation that phones and devices will be unlocked for trials in the future. This Arkansas case is not the only request. A Justice Department request to unlock an iPhone linked to an accused drug dealer in New York was denied in February, but the department is appealing that decision.

All of this leaves Apple in a bad position. No company wants their devices hacked, even if it is the government doing so in the name of justice. Since we don’t know how the government unlocked the phone, it is likely that their method may end up being used by hackers and criminals. This would put all iPhones at risk and challenge Apple to continue to prevent decryption attempts in the future without all the knowledge of how these phones are being hacked.

Article via CNET, 30 March 2016

Photo: iPixel by Francis  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Summit to combat terrorists using social media

Federal administration officials collaborated with senior executives from several large tech firms at last week’s summit on terrorist communication via social media. General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin represented the Department of Justice at the conference. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, and other large Silicon Valley companies attended. The meeting was part of President Obama’s overall mission as announced last week to combat violent extremism both internationally and domestically.

“Today’s developments reflect President Obama’s commitment to take every possible action to confront and interdict terrorist activities wherever they occur, including online,” said National Security Council representative Ned Price.

Multiple tech firms discussed their goals to prevent communication between terrorists on their social media outlets. “We explained our policies and how we enforce them—Facebook does not tolerate terrorists or terror propaganda and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

The summit came after the Department of Homeland Security’s and the Department of Justice’s announcement of the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force, an amalgamation of different agencies given the task of “discourage[ing] violent extremism and undercut[ting] terrorist narratives” with an additional goal to “build relationships and promote trust” with certain communities across the country, said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 13 January 2016

Photo: President Obama Talks to the Crew of Atlantis (P052009PS-0698) by NASA HQ PHOTO. [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Obama orders development of smart gun technology

President Obama submitted a memorandum on Monday in which he ordered the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to develop smart gun technology.  This technology includes fingerprint and radio-frequency identification, which serve to track guns and prevent accidental shootings. The president made a deadline of 90 days for the agencies to create a list of recommendations.

According to a statement by President Obama,  gun sales rocketed following the San Bernardino shooting. In a more recent memorandum, Obama spoke about executive actions he took to curb gun violence and urged the nation to have a “sense of urgency” about the issue.

In reference to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 students and six teachers, Obama said, “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

Obama’s initiatives intend to end the “gun show loophole” that allows gun dealers and hobbyists to sell at gun shows and online without verifying background checks. Guns rights groups will most likely resist the expansion of background checks and the new effort to develop smart gun technology. Many of these groups claim that smart technology is a means by which the government could track firearms, which would eventually lead to a ban on weapons.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Chris Cox said that the NRA would now let “law-abiding gun owners to become scapegoats for President Obama’s failed policies.”

In his memorandum, Obama referenced a 2013 Department of Justice report that discussed how to effectively use gun safety technologies, which included a required owner fingerprint scan before the gun could discharge.

“In its report, the (DOJ) made clear that technology advancement in this area could help reduce accidental deaths and the use of stolen guns in criminal activities,” he said.

Article via CNET, 4 January 2016

Photo: Mauser 1934 by PRO Keary O.

[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


New regulations on cell-site simulators

The Department of Justice has put stricter regulations on the use of cell-site simulators by requiring a warrant to be issued before one can be used, except in the case of “exigent” or “exceptional circumstances”, according to the CNN report covering the announcement. Cell-site simulators, which acquire locational data from cellphones by posing as cell towers, have not been regulated previously. The use of cell-site simulators have proven very helpful to law enforcement trying to locate kidnapping victims, terrorists, and other fugitives. While effective, these simulators also gather information about citizens who have not committed any crimes. This breach of privacy calls into question the ethics behind using cell-site simulators which in turn led to the announcement from the Department of Justice.

The new regulations have been praised as a step in the right direction for protecting citizen’s privacy after previous scandals of government agencies hiding their surveillance technology from the public. However, the Department of Justice’s announcement only applies to federal agencies, not local or state law enforcement. The staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Nathan Freed Wessler, stated that “Congress should act to pass more comprehensive legislation to ensure that Americans’ privacy is protected from these devices and other location tracking technologies” by including law enforcement agencies that purchased cell-site simulations with federal funding under the new regulations.

Articles via ABA Journal, September 4, 2015: CNN, September 3, 2015

Photo: Timelaps with Oneplus One Cellphone via Damien Thorne [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]