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Apple cites iPhone, Mac security problems in rebuttal to FBI demands

Gregg Keizer | March 17, 2016
DOJ has 'fundamental misunderstanding' and 'reckless disregard' of security risks, Apple lawyers argue.

"Those employees, if identified, could themselves become targets of retaliation, coercion, or similar threats by bad actors seeking to obtain and use GovtOS for nefarious purposes," Neuenschwander said. "I understand that such risks are why intelligence agencies often classify the names and employment of individuals with access to highly sensitive data and information, like GovtOS. The government's dismissive view of the burdens on Apple and its employees seems to ignore these and other practical implications of creating GovtOS."

Apple's lawyers also cited the firm's security problems in its primary brief yesterday, in which it took issue with the All Writs Act.

"No All Writs Act authority permits courts to require an innocent private company to create and maintain code whose 'public danger is apparent' and whose disclosure would be 'catastrophic' to the security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of users," Apple's attorneys wrote.

In a footnote to bolster that line of logic, the brief said, "Even Apple devices are not immune from cyberattack," and referenced a March 6 story by the Reuters news service that described a recent attempt to plant "ransomware" on Macs by using a stolen cryptographic digital certificate.

Elsewhere in Apple's brief, the firm took exception to last week's implied threat by the government that, if Apple refused to cooperate, the DOJ may demand that the company hand over its iOS source code and signing key so that FBI engineers could create the tools investigators demand.

"The government also implicitly threatens that if Apple does not acquiesce, the government will seek to compel Apple to turn over its source code and private electronic signature," Apple said. "The catastrophic security implications of that threat only highlight the government's fundamental misunderstanding or reckless disregard of the technology at issue and the security risks implicated by its suggestion."

 

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