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N. Carolina Senator Drafting Bill To Criminalize Apple's Refusal To Aid Decryption (arstechnica.com) 296

Ars Technica reports that North Carolina senator Richard Burr says he plans to introduce legislation "to criminalize a company's refusal to aid decryption efforts as part of a governmental investigation." In a USA Today op-ed, Burr, griping that "[t]he newest Apple operating systems allow device access only to users," even Apple itself can't get in," drags out the usual bugaboos: "Murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and the others are already using this technology to cover their tracks."

Updated Friday 12:40pm EST: The Wall Street Journal reports Senate Panel Chief Decides Against Plan to Criminalize Firms That Don't Decipher Encrypted Messages
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N. Carolina Senator Drafting Bill To Criminalize Apple's Refusal To Aid Decryption

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  • Dear Owners (Score:5, Funny)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:51AM (#51541621) Journal

    Fix Unicode already.

    • Re:Dear Owners (Score:5, Informative)

      by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:57AM (#51541671) Homepage

      It's 13 years old, but I still recommend as an introduction "The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!)" : http://www.joelonsoftware.com/... [joelonsoftware.com]

      • Thanks, that's an interesting primer.

        I jumped over some parts and plan to go back and reread, so forgive me if an answer was mentioned, but I have a question that has bugged me: Why can't we come up with a single text standard that works for everyone? Is it just the standard problem with standards [xkcd.com]?

      • Every software developer? Really? I'm fairly sure my development of finite difference modelling software won't be improved by knowledge of Unicode (I *have* encountered EBCDIC though, briefly, which is the one thing he claims would never happen).

        Not meant as a comment about you, but the author of the piece, who seems to have a rather limited view of the range of software that's actually developed.

    • Re:Dear Owners (Score:5, Informative)

      by whipslash ( 4433507 ) Works for Slashdot on Friday February 19, 2016 @01:35PM (#51542407) Homepage Journal
      It's a work in progress. Trust me. I want it fixed also.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Fix Unicode already.

      Why is it so hard to believe that /. has supported Unicode for ages now? (It was courtesy of a patch by Slashdot.jp). However, a bunch of posters realized that the finer points of Unicode could be used to abuse the site (and many sites are still ripe for the abuse) to fake titles and scoring?

      It's a pity the Unicode filter is run again on old comments but use Google to search for the odd phrase "erocS" and even "5:erocS" With a bit of Unicode trickery in the subject, you could fake a scor

  • by Trailrunner7 ( 1100399 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:51AM (#51541623)
    Ars might want to update its rewrite of the WSJ story. Burr isn't submitting the bill. http://www.wsj.com/articles/se... [wsj.com]
    • by StatureOfLiberty ( 1333335 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @12:07PM (#51541761)

      I think the quote went something like this:

      "I do, I offer a complete and utter retraction. The proposed legislation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way competent, and was motivated purely by ignorance, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and any other citizen and I hereby undertake not to submit any such nonsense at any time in the future."

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @12:18PM (#51541841)

      only senators and outlaws will have iphones.

    • Updated
  • by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:51AM (#51541627)
    Philandering senators.
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:54AM (#51541647) Homepage Journal
    Timothy...what the F? What is (TM) and the "a" all over? Unreadable! The new owners need to do something about this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:55AM (#51541655)

    Apple is protecting itself from charge of Treason, something you yourself are guilty of.

    The Constitution protects EVERYONE, not just "good people", but EVERYONE from unreasonable search and seizure.
    It also allows EVERYONE to refuse to answer on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves.

    When Apple configured it's devices so that they could not decrypt the phones themselves, they were ENFORCING those rights that you would so gladly trample all over.

    I cannot wait until you, your traitorous cronies and the rest of the Congressional, Executive and Judicial branches are held accountable for their Treason and Traitorous activities since 9/11. We can fix the deficit by selling tickets to your executions (the punishment for Treason during a time of war).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Constitution doesn't apply anymore. Just meandering case law, executive orders, and things like Open Letters from the ATF

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Apple is protecting itself from charge of Treason

      Not really. Either way this decision goes down, Apple is not engaging in acts to overthrow this country, or provide aid to an enemy. Farook is/was a US citizen and the FBI has shown no evidence* that he was working with any foreign nationals. So there's no treason demonstrated there either. Apple has no standing as a defendant in this case, so the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply.

      What Apple is protecting is the intangible value of the perception of security that their technology has. Should Apple demonstrate

    • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <{speter} {at} {tedata.net.eg}> on Friday February 19, 2016 @12:41PM (#51542003) Journal

      A few lessons on the 4th and 5th amendments...

      First, self incrimination, i.e. the 5th amendment, has absolutely no bearing on this case. If a police officer, prosecutor, congressional tribunal, what-have-you, asks you a question that may be used to incriminate you of a crime, you have the right to say, "I plead the 5th." But your constitutional protections end there; they have every right to look for evidence that may incriminate you outside of your own self. In this matter, we have a phone. It's not a person. It is an object that presents itself as evidence, ergo it may be used as such.

      Second, and more difficult to accept, the 4th amendment has no bearing on this case either. The 4th amendment protects an individual's right to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects." It begins and ends with the individual. This phone was not unlawfully seized. It didn't even belong to the individual; it belonged to the company he worked for. And the company who owns the property surrendered it willingly to law enforcement. (Side tangent lesson: don't ever use a company phone EVER for anything other than business. It may be used against you for any crime.)

      Third, I don't see how treason plays into any of this. Article III, section 3 defines treason as "levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." The charges I believe Apple will be facing is Obstruction of Justice, as, from the perception of the government, they are interfering with an investigation. And, like it or not, current US law requires them to follow the court order, under 18 U.S. Code 2511 [cornell.edu], which reads, in part, "Providers of wire or electronic communication service...are authorized to provide information, facilities, or technical assistance to persons authorized by law to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications or to conduct electronic surveillance, as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, if such provider, its officers, employees, or agents, landlord, custodian, or other specified person, has been provided with a court order directing such assistance."

      Apple is trying to set a new precedent, one I would consider a push-back for all the illegal surveillance the US Government has done over the last fifteen years. They are attempting to make digital-communication-evidence-gathering impossible if an individual so wills it. I don't know whether they'll be successful or not.

      For the record, I am not a lawyer, but it's my country and my laws as much as the rest of yours, so I feel responsible to understand them.

      • [...] And, like it or not, current US law requires them to follow the court order, under 18 U.S. Code 2511 [cornell.edu], which reads, in part, "Providers of wire or electronic communication service...are authorized to provide [stuff] to [law enforcement]" [...]

        It literally says "they are permitted to hand over stuff, nevermind what other laws say", and most likely equals "they have to hand over all the stuff they can get their hands on". But I do not see a legal basis for anything more than that. There is a limit to what a court can force you to do to help with an investigation. A landlord cannot be compelled to demolish a whole block just because a LEO thinks there might be a weed pipe under a couch. And being asked to tear down the security mechanisms in your p

        • And being asked to tear down the security mechanisms in your proprietary operating system comes quite close in comparison.

          Apple is being asked to do no such thing. All the FBI needs is a version of iOS that skips the passcode count limit and the delay between passcode entry attempts. Quite trivial modifications. The FBI could certainly make such changes. What is needed from Apple is to digitally sign that updated iOS so that the hardware will accept it and run it. Furthermore if Apple makes such changes they could add code to limit the modified iOS to only run on the device in question. The FBI would be unable to alter this ne

        • The US is using the All Writs Act to compel Apple.

          "At its core, the 18th-century catchall statute simply allows courts to issue a writ, or order, which compels a person or company to do something. In the past, feds have used this law to compel unnamed smartphone manufacturers to bypass security measures for phones involved in legal cases. The government has previously tried using this same legal justification against Apple as well." http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com]

          So basically Apple needs to take thi
      • Third, I don't see how treason plays into any of this. Article III, section 3 defines treason as "levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

        I'm playing devil's advocate here, not actually accusing Apple of anything, certainly not treason. That said, if the San Bernardino murderers declared loyalty to ISIS and the government suspects the phone contains unknown information related to ISIS (say a contact) then prohibiting access to that information could arguably be providing aid to ISIS. Additionally it could be argued that ISIS is by its own declaration at war with the USA and thereby be considered an enemy. I wouldn't be so sure that a charge o

    • Apple is protecting itself from charge of Treason, something you yourself are guilty of.

      Spare us the histrionics. Treason is a very narrowly defined [wikipedia.org] crime in the US and it isn't remotely in play here on either side. I think Apple is completely justified to refuse this ridiculous court order but no one at Apple is in danger of being tried for treason or needs to protect themselves from such accusations.

      You do realize that the actual law is considerably more nuanced than you are implying, right? Protections against self incrimination do not necessarily apply to evidence you generate including evidence left on computers. The accused doesn't have to help the government make their case against him but that doesn't mean the government can't take action to gather the evidence. What is at stake here is whether the government should be able to compel a company to take extraordinary action to defeat security measures against a third party. It has nothing whatsoever to do with self incrimination. If the phone was unlocked and unecrypted then this isn't even a conversation.

    • Study the Constitution sometime. The owners of the phone, San Bernardino county, consented to have the phone searched by the FBI and have he encryption broken. So the Fourth Amendment is not being violated. Now if San Bernardino county said no to the search, then yes the Fourth Amendment would be violated.
  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:58AM (#51541689)
    Have a special version of iOS that secretly has a backdoor. Record the conversations of politicians. Then start to anonymously trickle the most embarrassing ones out, while releasing an update to iOS that removes the backdoor.
  • Ah, such totally rich political theater, no doubt pandering to his base. I believe we all agree that beginning with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co, and culminating with Citizens United, even if this weren't the preposterous legislative proposal of a buffoon used car salesman, the idea of a corporation being held criminally responsible for anything in the USA is utterly hilarious.
  • Enough said.

  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @12:05PM (#51541737)
    It's not like we really honored the US Constitution since the so-called "patriot act" after 911. Benjamin Franklin said it best: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." When will we learn?
    • This, this, so much this... it is so sad that people don't realize this. It's not even the fact that the Constitution is getting stomped on - it's the fact that people don't even know why that's a bad thing.

      • Yep. We could always partner with China on government policy reform. We seem to be trying to adopt similar policies anyway: Do what the government agencies tell you without question...or else. In China being a lawyer is all about relationships with the judge (talk to a few Chinese lawyers of you have trouble believing this...) and the USA this is an example of the same and more to come in my opinion.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Never. For these people a human lifetime is not enough to actually see reality and truth. And when they die we may raise a glass to then only good thing they ever did in their life (leaving it), but the next generation of the same type will already be well underway and I suspect that even the most stupid and vicious fuckups get reincarnated to mistreat their fellow human beings once more.

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      It's not like we really honored the US Constitution since the so-called "patriot act" after 911. Benjamin Franklin said it best: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." When will we learn?

      That's cool, but I think we've seen that most people in the United States do not hold Franklin's ideals. They're more than willing to give up some stuff they don't really care about in order to make it more difficult for the Terries to come over and kill them and their families.

    • This isn't even sacrificing liberty for temporary security. It's sacrificing definite security now (your device is encrypted) for a small amount of theoretical security in the future (maybe they use the decryption to catch a terrorist before he does something that might possible have impacted you). There is nothing that I've heard to justify this except people spouting "terrorism" as if that's society's root password.

  • Dickie Burr wants to make it a crime? Well, good luck throwing a corporation in jail there, Dickie, you moron.
  • Aside from the issue that this is a really stupid policy, can we please stop paying attention when so-and-so introduces legislation? ninety-nine times out of a hundred Introducing legislation is a cheap stunt used to run for election, knowing that the legislation will be referred to a subcommittee and will never again see the light of day. It might as well be a press release.

  • Sure they could subpoena source code or existing tools- the issue here is demanding Apple provide a service such as developing a tool to crack the device. This is patently unconstitutional.
    • by pegr ( 46683 )

      Can they subpoena signing keys? Can they force Apple to sign a firmware used to bypass protections? That's really the question here.

      • Can they force Apple to sign a firmware used to bypass protections?

        That would be a service... I am sure Apple engineers don't come cheap!
        • And now I'm picturing Tim Cook offering this service to the US Government...

          Tim (while petting a white cat sitting on his lap): "We can do this for you, but it'll cost *pinky to mouth* One hundred TRILLION dollars."

  • And as part of the PATRIOT II act we'll criminalize any Congress member who votes "no" because clearly they refuse to aid national security. I think Apple picked just the right time to make a stand and put the US in a lose-lose situation, either they back down (unlikely) or lose (lots of good PR) or win and Apple is forced to decrypt this one phone while most their market moves to phones with Secure Enclave, so by the time the case closes (expect appeals) they can rightfully say it's irrelevant now because

  • Also: 100% honest, hard-working, law-abiding people, who don't want thieves and nosy government types all up in their business. Oh, and by the way, my totally un-scientific estimate says 99.999% of everyone using an iPhone's nigh-unto unbreakable encryption are the law-abiding types. This is just another case of government and 'law enforcement' (in quotes because I use the term loosely anymore) overreach; it's also disingenuous, they just want to put a gun to Apple's head to make them give them a way to unl
  • We already have "TSA luggage locks" that have a second keyhole (or additional keyhole for combination locks) so a TSA master key can unlock them for luggage inspection. Ask the average person whether they would put a lock like that on the doors to their home. Ask the heads of the companies that make locks, especially the higher-security locks like Medeco and ASSA Abloy, if they would make them (or even bother designing them).
    • by in10se ( 472253 )

      Ask the average person whether they would put a lock like that on the doors to their home.

      Do you realize that all kinds of people probably have the exact specific key to your home, and that thousands of people have the master key. Even the most expensive locks you can get at your typical Home Depot only have at most 100,000 different combinations (most brands have fewer).

      • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

        typical Home Depot only have at most 100,000 different combinations (most brands have fewer).

        only need one: Bolt-cutter.

      • Assuming a thief was going to use a key to get in (as opposed to breaking a window or using a bolt cutter on the lock), they would need to carry 100,000 different keys. Even if they could try one every second, it would take them over 27 hours to try them all. Contrast this with a hypothetical "TSA-Approved Home Lock" which had a master key hole that was the same across all locks. A thief could walk up with one key, put it in the lock, and be assured that it would open.

        So, no, the "100,000 different combi

  • Murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and the others are already using this technology to cover their tracks

    Forgot one: Senators

  • by charles05663 ( 675485 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @12:40PM (#51541999) Homepage
    So, here is the story:

    The California government purchases an iPhone (hey it is designed in California!) for the terrorist they hired (notice how most news organizations and the president like to call him a mass shooter to further their agenda of gun control instead of a terrorist that they were?).

    Being soooooo tech savvy, their IT department did not install away that allowed them (the gov) to access the phone that they owned and issued. It really seems that this whole encryption debate is design to mask the fact the the government is inept.

    How may companies would issue a device they could not control?
  • For law-abiding citizens, good encryption is the first line of defense against criminals accessing our personal information and stealing our identities. With our philosophy of “innocent until proven guilty,” we should first protect the good people properly. Then within those constraints, we can find ways to deal with the criminals without violating people’s rights.

  • Murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and the others are already using this technology to cover their tracks

    If they had covered their tracks, then nobody would know they were doing those things, and if they somehow do know, then they aren't using it to cover their tracks are they?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I would also say that the people in question were killed by the police represents a pretty maximal failure to "cover their tracks". But politicians do not deal in truth or honor. They deal in manipulation, lies and power.

  • "Murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and the others are already using this technology to cover their tracks."

    As are Senators, Congressmen, and some presidential candidates. *cough*

  • Legislation is unnecessary. If this is an order from a Judge, then failure to comply means they're in contempt of court, for which there isn't much legal recourse. The Judge can simply have corporate officers jailed until they comply.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And the corporation can simply take its business elsewhere. Than said judge would be responsible for an economic catastrophe. Hence that is not going to happen.

      • You are absolutely right. However, as long as their corporate leadership reside in the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the courts, they're subject to their court orders.

        I think this would be something that Apple might take to crazy levels in its defense. Imagine if Apple has to stop selling products that have the type of encryption that's being perused here. Would they have to stop sell Mac's that have iMessage on them, as it too is encrypted?

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      What court case would they be in contempt for? Judges cannot just randomly insist that companies perform various acts. There is no pending case regarding this phone as the 2 suspects are dead.
      • Actually, a judge can compel US citizens to do things that are within their purview. This is effectively a search warrant, which puts it in the judges power. However, the law it's based on, the All Writs Act, is what's in contest for Apple. Broadly interpreted, the judge does have the power to compel this assistance, in the same way that a judge can compel someone to give testimony even if they want to plead the 5th, because they are guaranteeing immunity from self-incrimination. Failure to comply, mean

    • Do judges have unlimited powers to issue orders? As another poster said, could a judge order a landlord to demolish all of his buildings because the police believed there were drugs hiding in one person's couch cushions? This judge is essentially ordering Apple to demolish their entire security apparatus "just for one phone." (In quotes because we all know it won't end at this one phone.)

      • Not unlimited powers, but powers that are within their domain. For example a judge couldn't order Tim Cook to fire Ives, or require him to move the Apple HQ to Timbuktu. But, the judge can order the company to cooperate with a search warrant, which is within their rights under the All Writs Act, (when broadly read).

    • Legislation is unnecessary. If this is an order from a Judge, then failure to comply means they're in contempt of court, for which there isn't much legal recourse. The Judge can simply have corporate officers jailed until they comply.

      Or levy a fine. Say a daily fine until compliance. The judge can choose a fine amount that hurts financially. In short, corporations can be compelled.

  • Of course Apple can aid decryption -- they have a large number of computers that can assist in brute-forcing AES. Done.

    Oh, you mean extraordinary aid to get it done before the heat death of the universe? Well, that may or may not be possible, depending on how the existing code and hardware work. A good look at the source code would settle the matter one way or the other. As for Court Orders, they can only be for things directly before the court. Otherwise, it's "legislating from the bench".

    Forcing bac

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. They _are_ aiding the government already. The problem is that the court order compels them to do so _successfully_ in the face of a non-standard and potentially very difficult problem, and that is not compatible with fundamental legal principles. The word "reasonable" is the key here, and if Apple did the engineering right, nothing they may (or may not) be able to do passes that test.

      If anything, this idiocy will just make very sure Apple will design future generations of their devices so that they

  • Laws can't be made that make previous activity criminal.
  • This was the plan all along. John McAfee was the only really unexpected thing from the narrative. Taking him up on his offer clears Apple, gets the government what they want, and no legislation has to happen, but they're not going to McAfee up on his offer.

    Nope, they're just going to stick to the original plan [slashdot.org] and push legislation. Now that justice Scalia is conveniently dead you don't have to worry about the supreme court blocking it.

  • So, my understanding is that Apple is refusing to create a version of iOS that would allow FBI to crack encryption on this one phone because then it can be used to do the same on other phones, right? I totally get it, privacy of everyone will be compromised and FBI can't be trusted. But in this particular case a (hopefully) independent judge reviewed the case and ordered Apple to help decrypt the phone. It changes everything, and I don't see why it wouldn't be ok to break encryption on a per case basis unde

  • by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @02:15PM (#51542829)
    That bill is proposing an ex post facto law which is explicitly barred by the US Constitution.
  • What a surprise that slashdot made no mention of the fact that Richard Burr is a Republican [wikipedia.org]. Leaving it out allows the slashdot conservative base to more easily pretend that this bill isn't coming from one of their own.
  • Since Sen. Richard Burr is clearly an expert on this (NOT). Apple should just hire him to do the work for the FBI. 1) Apple can now claim they have put an expert on the job. 2) Judge/FBI can't complain 3) The phone won't get cracked. Win/Win/Win :-)

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