General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Why can't the government use the NSA instead of Apple?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9178points) February 20th, 2016 from iPhone

If the NSA already has the power to listen to phone calls, and read emails and texts, why can’t the government go that route rather than making Apple create a govt mandated software?

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24 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Because Apples implementation of the encryption is pretty good. By the time the NSA had broken it any intel gained would be less useful.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

But doesn’t the NSA go through the ISP, not the phone manufacturer?

ibstubro's avatar

The way I understood it, the Apple security system allows 3 tries to access, and then the information on the phone is wiped clean.
The government isn’t trying to get Apple to open the phone so much as write an exception to the proprietary Apple security system that allows the NSA to try and try again until they find the code to open the phone.

The government is trying to force Apple to create a key that would allow anyone possessing the key to by-pass, essentially, the entire Apple security system. The same system that has put an Apple phone in the hand of an incredible ½ of users.

Jaxk's avatar

Apparently Apple believes they can break the code otherwise there would be no point in refusing to try. Hidden information has always been subject to a court order and they have that. The whole NSA issue was about collecting information without a court order. This is completely different. I don’t see any new issue here. Once the government has probable cause and a court order, they get to seize your information. It’s always been that way. It’s called ‘Due Process’.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

The government is not asking Apple to break the code. They are asking Apple to change their software to allow the information to be accessed by bypassing the code. As of right now, if the code is entered incorrectly 10 times, the info on the phone is deleted.
This isn’t about a court order to access the information, it’s a court order to open Apple software to vulnerabilities.
There seems to be a huge misunderstanding about what the actual issue is and it is scary that these old non-tech savvy politicians are speaking out and siding with something they are not taking the time to actually understand. Kinda reminds me of the causes of terrorism.

gorillapaws's avatar

The court order is asking Apple to develop software that would be capable of bypassing their own security. That’s like a judge ordering a vault company to have their engineers spend time inventing a new tool that could allow agents into their own vaults. Since when can judges order companies to invent new things?

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Jaxk. No this is very different. Here the issue isn’t about Apple handing over tools or methods it has lying around. The government is attempting to force Apple to develop a method for hacking its own devices, then turn that method over to the government. Apple makes the point that the government is asking the company to drive down the value of its own products.

Jaxk's avatar

Here is a reasonable description of what they would have to do. With or without Apples help this is not a backdoor to the encryption key. It is more of a ‘slippery slope’ argument. With or without Apples help it will take very sophisticated equipment and possibly years to break the code. Apple has a great marketing tool here, in that even the FBI can’t break their code. It’s little wonder they don’t want to lose that.

I couldn’t get my link to work so you’ll have to look down to the article that starts with “Apple Vows to Resist”.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Back to the NSA….
It is highly likely that the majority of whatever they will find on the phone, got there through phone, text, or Internet.

Why can’t the NSA gather the information that they are looking for? They are still data mining, no? At least they should be able to get this information through the ISP and cell providers, no?
How much do we need to give them access to before they are able to do anything with it, or stop these things before they happen?
When phones backup to iCloud, the information doesn’t magically appear there. It gets there through the Internet.

Jaxk's avatar

@SquirrelEStuff – Apparently they turned off the backup feature so that the most recent data wasn’t backed up. They already have the data that was backed up before they turned off that feature.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@jaxk
Has the FBI specified what they are looking for on the phone?
I don’t know how much turning off back up will change the fact that aside from any original content created and stored on the phone, almost anything else on there, should have come way of the Internet, which means it has gone through an ISP.

Is this the article that you are referring to?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Apple has to resist. And the rest of us should sit up and pay attention. If the government can force Apple to develop methods for defeating security codes in its own products, what’s to prevent other governments from telling Cook to “hand it over.”? And how long til Junior high hackers latch onto the “trick”? And of much greater concern to the corporation, what happens to the value of all of those i phones and the worth of what is probably the most valuable single brand on the planet? I don’t think the significance of this can be overstated, and the government is in a hurry to push this before the weight of public opinion falls heavily on the gears enabling it to muscle Apple.

Jaxk's avatar

@SquirrelEStuff – I’m not sure exactly but they talk about pictures and contacts.

Jaxk's avatar

@stanleybmanly – They’re talking about melting the plastic off the hardware encryption chip and then bombarding it with lasers to get the hardware code. At that point they’re only halfway there. They still need to crack the software key. I’m not sure the Jr. High school student is equipped to do that. Even if they do, it’s still 5–10 years to do it on the IPhone. A bit faster if they can transport the the whole thing to a supercomputer.

YARNLADY's avatar

The reason the NSA can’t do the job is money. They can’t afford to pay enough to attract the people capable of doing the job. It’s that simple.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@yarnlady

Would you happen to have a source? Thank you!

gorillapaws's avatar

@YARNLADY With respect, I don’t think you have a clue about what you’re saying. The NSA has billions of dollars in it’s budget. There are very few minds on the planet that can do the sort of work involved in security at this level of sophistication, and the people with those minds can basically take their pick of job and name their price. Dudes working for the NSA do it because they believe in the idea of protecting the US from foreign threats; I really don’t think they do it for the paycheck. I suspect after the Snowden leak, recruiting top talent for the NSA got a lot harder when it was revealed that the NSA was violating the Constitution and spying on our own citizens.

jerv's avatar

It’s a matter of jurisdiction. The general rule is that the FBI handles domestic things while the NSA is not allowed to do much within our borders. If the NSA stepped in in any way then there would be a problem. It’s actually a bit more complex than that, but that simplified version is close enough to the complex truth for this discussion.

@Jaxk I think it’s a little less “slippery slope” and a little more “chilling effect”. There is also the matter of Apple being quite uptight about trade secrets, arguably moreso than the DoD is about classified information and the ripple effects that will have on trade secrets.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@jerv
Hasn’t it been shown that the NSA has been spying on American citizens? Wasn’t that why Snowden was a big deal? Isn’t the whole purpose of them spying on us to “stop terrorism?”

jerv's avatar

@SquirrelEStuff Like I said, the actual facts of the matter are a bit more complex. Technically, the NSA isn’t supposed to operate within US borders, but since terrorists are within our borders there’s a bit of a jurisdictional pissing contest between the NSA and FBI. Not a feud so much as a difference of opinion that has required intervention from the courts to draw the lines between “domestic” and “foreign” as it applies to threats that transcend the concept of national borders.

YARNLADY's avatar

My only evidence is the salary they offered my husband to work for them. I do not wish to reveal any further information.

gorillapaws's avatar

@YARNLADY I could be wrong, but I’m still pretty sure that the NSA will pay generously for the “Good Will Hunting” type guys who are the ones smart enough to do this low-level stuff. I don’t know if your husband won the Fields metal or the Abel Prize, but not all positions at the NSA are equal. Apple has been spending years and untold millions of dollars trying to make the iPhone as secure as possible, hiring some of the top talent on the planet to do so. Reverse engineering and punching holes in the security of the iPhone is a monumental task from the outside. I really don’t think cost is a factor.

jerv's avatar

@gorillapaws I concur. While competent, I seriously doubt @YARNLADY‘s husband is in the same league as Linus Torvalds and Steve Wozniak. If he were, I am confident that Uncle Sam would’ve started the negotiations with a six-figure number, and not necessarily one starting with a 1.

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