Secret Government Memo Reveals Wider Plan To Crack Phones

While the revelation of it's memo supporting phone “backdoors” may be inconvenient for the government, the Obama administration has simply doubled down on it's efforts to get the data it seeks. Indeed, the White House expressed it's support for the FBI and Justice Department in their efforts to get Apple to hack into citizens' phones.

“The approach was formalized in a confidential National Security Council ‘decision memo,' tasking government agencies with developing encryption workarounds, estimating additional budgets and identifying laws that may need to be changed to counter what FBI Director James Comey calls the ‘going dark' problem: investigators being unable to access the contents of encrypted data stored on mobile devices or traveling across the Internet. Details of the memo reveal that, in private, the government was honing a sharper edge to its relationship with Silicon Valley alongside more public signs of rapprochement.

On Tuesday, the public got its first glimpse of what those efforts may look like when a federal judge ordered Apple to create a special tool for the FBI to bypass security protections on an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the shooters in the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California that killed 14 people. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has vowed to fight the order, calling it a ‘chilling' demand that Apple ‘hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers.' The order was not a direct outcome of the memo but is in line with the broader government strategy.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice have the Obama administration’s ‘full' support in the matter. The government is ‘not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to their products,' but rather are seeking entry ‘to this one device,' he said.

Security specialists say the case carries enormous consequences, for privacy and the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, and that the National Security Council directive, which has not been previously reported, shows that technology companies underestimated the resolve of the U.S. government to access encrypted data.

‘My sense is that people have over-read what the White House has said on encryption,' said Robert Knake, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations who formerly served as White House Director of Cybersecurity Policy. ‘They said they wouldn’t seek to legislate ‘backdoors’ in these technologies. They didn’t say they wouldn’t try to access the data in other ways.'”

Source: Bloomberg



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