Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Justice

Apple vs. The FBI

Apple_logo_blackOn December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple from Pakistan living in the city of Redlands, CA. killed 14 people and injured 22 others in an ISIS inspired attack at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.  The couple later died in a shoot out with police.

The investigation into the terrorist attack has created a titanic legal battle between the world’s most valuable technology company and the U.S. government that may settle, once and for all, the issues of encryption, privacy and law enforcement.

On February 16th Judge Sheri Pym,U.S. Magistrate Judge for Federal District Court for the District of Central California, ordered Apple Inc. to assist the FBI in breaking the encryption of the couple’s iPhone 5c.  The judge cited the All Writs Act of 1789 in her decision. This law gives a judge the ability to issue court orders for matters not covered under current law.

On Feb. 17 Apple CEO Tim Cook responded in a letter calling Judge Pym’s court order “dangerous. “We have no sympathy for terrorists,” he said. “But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.” 

The Justice Department responded, “It is unfortunate that Apple continues to refuse to assist the department in obtaining access to the phone of one of the terrorists involved in a major terror attack on U.S. soil.”

The federal government argued the information contained on the phone could be vital to detecting  terrorist activities and connections.  However, the phone does not actually belong to Farook but the County of San Bernardino and may not contain any information of value to the investigation.

Apple and many technology companies are pointing at the slippery slop that could be created if the government is allowed to force companies to break the security of their devices. In the post Snowden era this is a potent argument that is unquestionably valid.

On Apple’s side are numerous technology companies and privacy advocates.  Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted his support warning that “forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy.” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer called for a debate on the matter and condemned government surveillance programs.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, seems to be supporting the FBI. Gates told the Financial Times  “”Nobody’s talking about a backdoor, so that’s not the right question. This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They’re not asking for some general thing, they’re asking for a particular case.” Gates went on to say the government is only looking for “a specific set of information” and not a master key to break into other phones.

 Later Gates gave a televised interview with Bloomberg in which he claimed to be “blindsided and disappointed”  the article didn’t correctly state his view on the dispute which he said was ultimately a decision for the courts.

Multiple civil rights groups, including Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy & Technology also support Apple’s position.

But the American people appear to be siding with the courts. According to a survey released by the Pew Research Center 51 percent of polled respondents believe Apple should help the FBI create technology that would allow the bureau to access the phone’s data.  Thirty-eight percent of the respondents disagreed while 11 percent had no opinion.

Apple’s argument that once it unlocks one phone it leads to more requests for unlocks seems to ring true. According to a recent filing in the New York federal court there are at least a dozen requests by the Department of Justice to unlock iPhones.

That request to the New York court was rejected. Yesterday Judge James Orenstein blocked the Department of Justice request saying federal investigators can’t use All Writs Act of 1789 to force Apple to comply.

Judge Orenstein wrote the government’s argument doesn’t justify “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will.” Orenstein went on to say that  law enforcement is inappropriately trying to use powers that it hasn’t been given by Congress.

The DOJ stated Apple’s arguments in the court are inconsistent. In a statement issued the DOJ said,  “Apple … only changed course when the government’s application for assistance was made public by the court.” The statement seems to suggest that Apple is now trying to seem protective of customers’ privacy.

Apple 1 – DOJ 0

Breaking It Down

Its rare that you have two side that are both correct but this one of those times. What we are truly dealing with is the choice of how much protections can we give to criminals and terrorist and what powers we give to law enforcement?  Apple is right to be reluctant to break its own encryption. It is a fundamental right of all citizens to be free of unreasonable search and seizure and be secure in their person. However I do not see how this is any different than a cop serving a search warrant to a suspect’s home. And that is why I do not understand why Apple is refusing this government request. In reality this is a test of how corporate America is going answer the call to maintain some control of their technology in order to preserve law and order. They need not give up the keys to the kingdom nor should  they be forced to. But if the government comes knocking warrant in hand they should be prepared to answer it. This is becoming a situation where law enforcement is getting outgunned by criminals that know as long as they keep their criminals records on an Apple phone then for the most part they are safe. Is that what we want terrorist to think? I don’t think so. Apple has every right to sulk and fight to the last lawyer standing but they also have a duty to the nation and their customers. Ignoring how a person uses their product regardless of the injury it causes is a gun industry trait and below Apple’s gleeming corporate image.   We need to at least have the threat of being able to unlock any phone used to commit a crime if the court so orders it. That simple capability is enough to deter a lot of crime.  Apple should relent and obey the court order.


Breach Brief – FBI, DHS

Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgThe personal information of nearly 30,000 federal employees, including FBI employees may have been compromised. 

According to Motherboard.com an anonymous hacker used a compromised Department of Justice email account to gain access to the department’s intranet. Using this access the hacker allegedly downloaded the personal information of more than 20,000 FBI employees and roughly 9,000 Department of Homeland Security employees. The hacker is threatening to release the information.

The compromised information includes names, job titles, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. The attack targeted not only DHS employees, but also individuals listed as agency contractors. Other DHS staffers, such as analysts, special agents, and technicians, were also targeted.

The hacker obtained specific information to access the system by using social engineering methods while pretending to be a new employee needing assistance. The hacker claimed to be a Palestinian sympathizer who wants the U.S. to sever ties with Isreal.

A spokesman for the  Justice Department said the information doesn’t appear to include any sensitive personal details. The agency is investigating potential unauthorized access of one of its systems. A Homeland security spokesman said it’s also looking into the alleged disclosure of employee contact information. There is no statement from the FBI.


The Deadly Internet – Cyberstalking, The New Domestic Violence

The Internet has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. It has become both the most useful and productive and the most abused and destructive tool in human history.

Domestic violence in our society has become epidemic. The Internet has become the latest weapon to inflict the deep psychological scars that the victims of domestic violence suffer. Social media, GPS tracking, spyware and email has become the weapons of choice for the abuser. Its the deadly Internet. The deep, dark and dirty web.

Cyberstalking, Tracking and Spying


Stuart Miles

Spyware has become one of the most insidious tools at the hands of an abusive spouse or relationship partner. A survey by domestic violence charity Women’s Aid determined that 41% of abuse victims had been harassed using electronic devices or spyware. This technology has been used to trap and sometimes even enslave victims. Electronic surveillance can make the victim feel constantly watched and controlled. A second survey by Digital Trust claims it found that 50% of abusive partners had used spyware or electronic devices to snoop on their victims.

What is spyware? Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive. An abusive spouse who uses spyware can track web movements and even steal passwords to read emails and instant messages from their victims accounts. They can also steal user names and passwords for bank accounts. This can make the  victim feel that the abuser knows what they are thinking and doing at all times. Spyware can even be installed on cellphones allowing the abuser to know who the victim calls, talks to or text.

This form of domestic violence and control has taken hold in our society to the point where the courts have seemingly legalized tracking your husband or wife. In 2011 a New Jersey judge declared that using GPS technology to track a husband or wife suspected of cheating to be legal. A search of the Internet will reveal an entire industry that specializes in selling tracking technology to suspicious husbands and wives as well as advice on how to use it most effectively.  You can also find information on how to track a person using their cell phone. Another website gives detailed instruction on how to set up your spouse’s computer to spy on them.


David Castillo-Dominici

Victims are left feeling powerless against abusers who seem to be acting legally to keep them under constant threat and surveillance. An abusive spouse can claim that they are keeping track of their partner to prevent or detect cheating and be within their rights when actually they are using the technology to create a psychological prison. Its called cyberstalking and its used to continue to maintain rigid control and instill fear into a domestic partner even when he or she has escaped the relationship. Cyberstalking is not just for troubled marriages. It occurs between unmarried couples, dating couples and even between people who barely know each other such as online dating relationships.  It is also just as prevalent among gay relationships.

Cyberstalking occurs on the Internet and the stalker can attack the victim in numerous ways. Stalkers have have been known to send the victim endless harassing emails and instant messages. One victim reported having received 1,600 emails messages in a single week from a man she met on an online dating site and rejected his romantic advances. The man continued to send her messages until she removed her profile from the site. Another victim, a man, was harassed online and then followed home from work by a woman he met online. Other victims report harassing phone calls and text messages to their cellphone. One man in Indiana sent a virus loaded email to his estranged wife’s workplace email hoping to get her fired.

Nearly every state has instituted an anti-cyberstalking law  and they are enforced. In December of 2014 the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of Elonis v. United States. According to court documents, Anthony Elonis was sentenced to 44 months in prison for threatening to kill his (now ex-) wife, via violent Facebook postings. Elonis wrote in a 2010 message; “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.” Elonis claims the message were rap lyrics. The court will have to decide.

In other examples women have been sexually harassed by men they have met online including unwanted sexual images and even threats of rape. According to Department of Justice statistics 850,000 American adultsmostly women, have been victims of cyber-stalking each year. And 40% of women have experienced dating violence delivered electronically.

One victim of note was  senior vice president of a well known company.  He was the victim of a terminated employee who  began sending hundreds of emails with Photoshopped pornographic images of the victim to every single person throughout the company for months before it was stopped. The executive was so humiliated he left his job, changed his name and moved to a different state. The Internet has created an easy and effective way of striking at someone through technology. The attacker never has to leave the house.

Research indicates that these determined abusers use even their own children to infiltrate their victim’s home. They use Christmas or birthday presents such as phones, computers and toys pre-loaded with spyware to keep track of their victims. Abusers have also installed wireless hidden cameras in the home of victims and transmitted images over the Internet. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid said “Domestic abuse is about control and perpetrators will use any means available to maintain and increase their control. We increasingly hear stories of abusers adding tracking software to phones, placing spyware on personal computers and using the Internet to gather information about their partner.”

This type of tracking and surveillance can and has resulted in deadly encounters.  An abusive husband in  Arizona used the GPS in his wife’s cellphone to stalk her before allegedly murdering their two children and shooting himself.  

Social media is yet another tool used to stalk and harrass victims. Women especially have been stalked, verbally abused, threatened and even murdered using social media websites like Facebook. Some experts have said that the social media obsession has made tracking a victim fairly easy. The constant need to check in and update your status makes it easier for stalkers to keep track of their victims. Some victims have experienced harassment going from online to face-to-face when stalkers show up at restaurants or other public places the victim visits and posts on social media.

Cyberstalking is the newest form of domestic violence. Its used to isolate and threaten a victim. The scars are as real and painful as those inflicted by physical violence. The Internet and associated technology has become a weapon against women and men who find out too late that a spouse or relationship partner has a dark side.

For women and anybody else who want to fight being stalked on social media wikihow.com has these tips. You can also find more information at FightCyberstalking.org

Now you know