Anti-Surveillance Coalition That Includes Apple Condemns Proposals for Device Backdoors

iphonecreateapasscodeThe Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which includes several major tech companies who have teamed up to lobby for surveillance law reform, this week released a statement condemning recent proposals for backdoor access into electronic devices and reaffirming a commitment to strong encryption.

The coalition is made up of multiple tech companies who have taken a strong stance against weakening encryption, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Snap, Evernote, LinkedIn, Oath (owned by Verizon) and Facebook.

Reform Government Surveillance recently announced a new core principle on encryption that will guide our advocacy efforts, and we continue to believe that strong encryption helps protect the security and privacy of individuals and companies around the world. We have consistently raised concerns about proposals that would undermine encryption of devices and services by requiring so-called "exceptional access" for law enforcement. Recent reports have described new proposals to engineer vulnerabilities into devices and services - but they appear to suffer from the same technical and design concerns that security researchers have identified for years. Weakening the security and privacy that encryption helps provide is not the answer.

As ZDNet points out, the statement comes following a WIRED article profiling Microsoft chief technical Ray Ozzie and his suggestion for a solution called "Clear" that would supposedly provide law enforcement with access to encrypted data with less security risk.

Ozzie's proposal uses a public key and a private key (housed and protected by a company like Apple) that are used to encrypt and decrypt a PIN generated on the device. No one is meant to be able to decode and use the PIN to unlock the device aside from the vendor, using the aforementioned private key.

So, say the FBI needs the contents of an iPhone. First the Feds have to actually get the device and the proper court authorization to access the information it contains--Ozzie's system does not allow the authorities to remotely snatch information. With the phone in its possession, they could then access, through the lock screen, the encrypted PIN and send it to Apple.

Armed with that information, Apple would send highly trusted employees into the vault where they could use the private key to unlock the PIN. Apple could then send that no-longer-secret PIN back to the government, who can use it to unlock the device.

Ozzie demonstrated his "Clear" solution to representatives from tech companies that included Apple, Google and Facebook, according to WIRED, but unsurprisingly, none of them had "any interest whatsoever" in voluntarily implementing that kind of access into their devices and services.

The coalition Apple is a part of in April published a core principle pledging to ensure device security through strong encryption and calling on governments to avoid taking actions that would require companies to "create any security vulnerabilities in their produces and services."

Strong encryption of devices and services protects the sensitive data of our users - including individuals, corporations, and governments. Strong encryption also promotes free expression and the free flow of information around the world. Requiring technology companies to engineer vulnerabilities into their products and services would undermine the security and privacy of our users, as well as the world's information technology infrastructure. Governments should avoid any action that would require companies to create any security vulnerabilities in their products and services.

The renewed activity from the Reform Government Surveillance group follows reports that have suggested law enforcement officials are quietly revisiting proposals that would require tech companies to add backdoor access into electronic devices for use by law enforcement officials.

FBI and DOJ officials have been meeting with security researchers with the aim of developing approaches that would offer "extraordinary access" to encrypted devices like the iPhone, with DOJ officials reportedly "convinced" there is a way to create a backdoor without weakening a device's defense against hacking.

Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi recently said that this kind of backdoor access would "inject new and dangerous weaknesses into product security."

"Weakening security makes no sense when you consider that customers rely on our products to keep their personal information safe, run their businesses or even manage vital infrastructure like power grids and transportation systems," Federighi said.

Apple vehemently opposes backdoor solutions like the one Ozzie proposed because they have the potential to weaken device encryption and provide new ways for bad actors to access device data.

Apple's strong stance against weakened device protections for the sake of law enforcement access was highlighted in the 2016 Apple vs. FBI conflict that saw Apple refuse to create a backdoor access solution to allow the FBI to crack the iPhone 5c owned by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.

graykey1

GrayKey iPhone unlocking box via MalwareBytes

Without device backdoors, law enforcement officials have still found ways to crack devices like iPhones through other means. At the current time, for example, agencies like the FBI and DOJ have access to an iPhone unlocking box called GrayKey, which is capable of unlocking Apple's most recent iPhones running modern versions of iOS.

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.

Popular Stories

iOS 18 CarPlay Feature

iOS 18 Adds These 5 New Features to CarPlay

Thursday June 13, 2024 7:44 am PDT by
Apple did not mention CarPlay during its WWDC keynote this week, but iOS 18 includes a handful of new features for the in-car software. Overall, there is not a whole lot new for CarPlay on iOS 18, with changes seemingly limited to the Messages and Settings apps so far. Below, we recap everything new for CarPlay on iOS 18. New for CarPlay on iOS 18 1. Contact Photos in Messages App...
ios 18 button bulge

iOS 18 Adds Pop-Out Bezel Animation When Pressing iPhone Buttons

Tuesday June 11, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
iOS 18 includes a small but interesting change for the buttons on the iPhone, adding more of a visual element when changing volume, activating the Action button, or locking the screen. When you press an iPhone button in iOS 18, the display bezel bulges outward slightly. This feature is available for the volume buttons, Action button and the power button, and it will also likely be used for...
iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

Revealed: iOS 18 Works With These iPhone Models

Monday June 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the same iPhone models as iOS 17, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and hence also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, but older iPhone models will miss out. Here is the full...
maxresdefault

First Look at Messages via Satellite in iOS 18

Thursday June 13, 2024 11:29 am PDT by
Apple has been gradually expanding its suite of satellite connectivity features for iPhone, and iOS 18 brings a significant new one in the form of Messages via satellite. The feature allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, while out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. CNET met up with Apple's senior director of platform product marketing,...
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Massive iPhone Upgrade Coming This Week But These Devices Will Miss Out

Sunday June 9, 2024 1:25 pm PDT by
Apple is planning a major AI overhaul in iOS 18, with a feature set it is referring to as "Apple Intelligence." However, these new features will not work on older iPhones, even if they do appear on the new operating system's device compatibility list. Apple's initial AI roadmap for iOS 18 is said to come in two parts: Basic AI features that will be processed on-device, and more advanced...
Generic iOS 18 Feature Real Mock

Your iPhone 15 Can Show the Time When It's Out of Battery in iOS 18

Wednesday June 12, 2024 2:57 pm PDT by
The iPhone has had a Power Reserve function that holds back a small amount of battery life to allow features like Find My and NFC unlocking to work even when your device has died, and in iOS 18, Apple seems to be improving the feature further for the iPhone 15 models. As demonstrated on Reddit, when the battery on an iPhone running iOS 18 is exhausted, the phone can continue to show the time ...

Top Rated Comments

GermanSuplex Avatar
80 months ago
Explain why not.
Because it compromises the privacy of everyone, not just lawbreakers.

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and the government wants to force a weak link onto a chain.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PotatoLeekSoup Avatar
80 months ago
Weakening security is dumb.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
camomac Avatar
80 months ago
I'm glad that Apple is staying strong.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tridley68 Avatar
80 months ago
Stick to your guns Apple keep security tight.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bitfactory Avatar
80 months ago
Microsoft and security recommendations. lul
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Black Tiger Avatar
80 months ago
Good for Apple. There is an alarming trend towards sacrificing privacy in the name of “security”. The problem is when organized crime or hackers are able to utilize these back foot methods, and it seems that this is a greater problem.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)