Apple says it will further strengthen iPhone encryption

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By Larry Banks

If it manages to successfully refuse a court order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone, Apple will strengthen its encryption according to a report on Wednesday citing an anonymous Apple executive.

A spokesman for the iPhone maker decline to comment on the record, states Reuters, and wouldn’t reveal how Apple intends to make further improvements. But they did suggest that the firm will strengthen its encryption, especially if it wins the current hot dispute with the US government over the unlocking of an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernadino terrorists.

Two other sources within the firm however said that Apple won’t take things to an extreme where it can’t access any data on an iOS device at all. Reuters provided the example of cloud storage company Box, which aims to have a “zero knowledge state” about customer data.

iOS 8 and iOS 9 already support full disk encryption, which Apple says is so strong that it can’t supply a key to workaround it, even when requested to do so via a warrant. The FBI however is taking a different approach, asking the firm to not unlock the iPhone directly but to provide a way of disabling the passcode retry limit so that investigators can use a brute-force attach on it. With the limit enabled, the device in question is set to automatically erase after a preset number of failed unlock attempts.

Apple says that if it provides a way around the retry limit, it would compromise the security of iOS for everyone. The FBI could possibly reuse the system to access any other iOS device with or without a warrant, and share it with other organisations such as the National Security Agency. However the FBI claims that it’s only interested in one device.

Legally, Apple is said to be readying to call for protection under the First Amendment and claim that computer code is speech. In the way, by forcing Apple to write software against its will the FBI could in theory be seen as try to compel speech.

SOURCE: Reuters.

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