New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Senior Apple Engineers Say Hackers Are Main iPhone Security Threat, Not Government

iPhone-PasscodeApple may be embroiled in an ongoing battle with the U.S. government over privacy rights and the boundaries of encryption, but in a meeting with reporters (via TechCrunch), Apple security engineers said the government is not the threat they aim to counter when implementing new security features for iOS devices.
Senior Apple engineers feel that government intrusion is not their primary threat model when designing iPhone security and said they instead prefer to focus on fending off hackers.

The engineers also characterized Apple's pushback against the FBI as motivated not by a desire to impede a terrorism investigation, but rather to defend its ability to protect users against non-governmental threats.
Hackers, not the government, are what Apple aims to counter by beefing up security, and Apple engineers don't want to be "viewed as government adversaries." With every iOS update, hackers, some malicious and some not, make an effort to discover previously unknown security flaws able to be exploited to gain access to iOS devices. Apple has to continually work to eliminate vulnerabilities and improve security in never-ending race.

In the call, TechCrunch says Apple engineers explained features in its Security White Paper [PDF] to reporters in an effort to emphasize the work that goes into protecting data, highlighting features like the Secure Enclave, Touch ID, two-factor authentication, and end-to-end encryption in iMessage.

Built into devices utilizing an A7 or later, the Secure Enclave, which maintains encryption keys directly on the chip, is a separate chip with its own secure boot and personalized software that's updated separately from the application processor. With iOS 8, Apple improved encryption for devices, making it impossible for the company to access data on a locked iPhone.

According to Apple engineers, who reportedly "disputed the theory" the iPhone's security allows criminals to evade law enforcement, implementing strong security measures is necessary to protect personal privacy for all people. In past arguments, Apple executives have also pointed out that even if the iPhone did have weaker encryption, criminals would be savvy enough to seek out other encryption methods like messaging apps with end-to-end encryption while the average consumer would be left more vulnerable.

Amid its dispute with the FBI, reports suggested Apple had already begun work on implementing stronger security measures to protect iOS devices, and in today's call with reporters, Apple said it has revamped its internal security teams.

Update: The Verge has shared additional details on the press briefing.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

46 months ago
Thank you for protecting us from hackers, criminals, the FBI and the US Government, Apple.

I'm not sure that I'm not being tautologous.
Rating: 12 Votes
46 months ago
Only governments murder people by the millions. Don't forget that the US government put US citizens of Japanese decent into concentration camps during WWII, more recently murdered innocent children in Waco, and the current administration has illegally spied on virtually every US citizen. In my opinion, the US government poses a much bigger danger than hackers, criminals, or even terrorists to ordinary Americans.
Rating: 11 Votes
46 months ago
Nyeeesss


I AM THE FEAR

Rating: 8 Votes
46 months ago
In other news, water is wet...
Rating: 5 Votes
46 months ago

Only governments murder people by the millions. Don't forget that the US government put US citizens of Japanese decent into concentration camps during WWII, more recently murdered innocent children in Waco, and the current administration has illegally spied on virtually every US citizen. In my opinion, the US government poses a much bigger danger than hackers, criminals, or even terrorists to ordinary Americans.


Rating: 5 Votes
46 months ago

Only governments murder people by the millions. Don't forget that the US government put US citizens of Japanese decent into concentration camps during WWII, more recently murdered innocent children in Waco, and the current administration has illegally spied on virtually every US citizen. In my opinion, the US government poses a much bigger danger than hackers, criminals, or even terrorists to ordinary Americans.

Well, sure, for most things I'd give you that. Our politicians stopped caring for us a long time ago. With that said, I think that Apple's position on this is that hackers are more apt to conduct a mass attack with nefarious intentions of ransoming, disseminating, or otherwise using people's data (payment, health, contact records, etc.). Whereas the government is more interested in individuals that are a threat to the government or its operations (including protecting the public).
[doublepost=1460767781][/doublepost]

...Secondly the Chinese aren't subject to the same laws which allows them to easier exploit the OS with out worry of being fined or sent to jail.

Fined? Jail? Please! They'd be given jobs working for the State.
Rating: 3 Votes
46 months ago
If the gov. wants to break into your phone, does it not make them the "hackers" ?
Rating: 2 Votes
46 months ago

Only governments murder people by the millions. Don't forget that the US government put US citizens of Japanese decent into concentration camps during WWII, more recently murdered innocent children in Waco, and the current administration has illegally spied on virtually every US citizen. In my opinion, the US government poses a much bigger danger than hackers, criminals, or even terrorists to ordinary Americans.

Bu...bu....but terrorist!
Rating: 2 Votes
46 months ago

. . . . Whereas the government is more interested in individuals that are a threat to the government or its operations (including protecting the public).
[doublepost=1460767781][/doublepost]
Fined? Jail? Please! They'd be given jobs working for the State.


Exactly, except that based on the U.S. Government's agenda today (destruction of the middle class, legal vote buying, clear superiority of the political elite, etc.), everyone with a job and the freedom to not need government services to survive is a threat or will be in the near future. Just to be clear, if you are middle class or higher you are a threat because you cannot be controlled.
Rating: 2 Votes
46 months ago

I thought they're just paying the hackers/jailbreakers to silence them for awhile. There was a time when every bug found another jailbreak comes out for almost every major releases. iOS was never been as secure as we thought, because every now and then we heard about a new bug unpatched for awhile. Yet all those hackers back then all of them disappeared and in complete silence. The only thing of interest now doing this are Chinese hackers, which obviously has hidden agenda.

When the iPhone first came out there were hardware level exploits being used which Apple can't patch. Those same devices would be jailbroken on iOS 9 too if they actually ran it. Secondly the Chinese aren't subject to the same laws which allows them to easier exploit the OS with out worry of being fined or sent to jail.
Rating: 1 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]