The US government’s declaration that it has “successfully accessed the data stored on [San Bernardino gunman] Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires” assistance from Apple, ends a six week-long legal clash between the tech firm and the FBI.
But it leaves the issue at the heart of the dispute unresolved: could the FBI have forced Apple to help it unlock the device?
It is unlikely that this will be the last time a law enforcement agency tries to compel a tech company to help bypass security measures.
What are the implications for other cases?
It had been reported that there were about a dozen other cases in which the US Justice Department was pursuing court orders to force Apple to help its investigators.
The highest profile of these was in Brooklyn, New York, where the FBI wanted access to an iPhone belonging to a defendant who had already pleaded guilty to drug dealing.
In that case, a federal judge had rejected the DoJ’s effort to invoke the All Writs Act – a three-centuries-old statute that allows court orders to be issued in circumstances where other laws don’t apply.
The DoJ had launched an appeal, but it is not yet clear if it will continue or drop it. Its decision may be based on whether the technique used to extract data from Farook’s handset can be used in other cases.
The New York case involved an iPhone 5S running the iOS 7 operating system, while the San Bernardino, California case was about an iPhone 5C running the more modern iOS 9. What works against one device might not work against the other.
But assuming the US government will at some point try again to use the All Writs Act to force Apple or some other tech company to circumvent its data protection measures, it may take a Supreme Court ruling to determine whether this is truly within the authorities’ power.
Is there any way to find out how Farook’s iPhone was cracked?
At this point, there is nothing to compel the FBI to reveal how it was done, although Apple is likely to be pressing hard to find out.
The tech firm’s lawyers have already said they would want details of the technique to be made public if evidence from the cracked iPhone is later used at trial.
But it could remain secret. There is scope within US law for the authorities to withhold the source of information if it was supplied to them on a confidential basis, and to protect sensitive intelligence-gathering methodologies.
Should I assume the US authorities can now easily work out any iPhone’s passcode?
The court order originally obtained by the FBI had instructed Apple to come up with a special version of its operating system that would have prevented Farook’s iPhone from deleting its data or imposing long lockout periods if too many incorrect passcode guesses were made.
However, the latest court filings do not say that someone else has now done this, but merely that some data stored on the device has been obtained.
Researchers at the cybersecurity firm IOActive had proposed that one way of getting data off an iPhone would be to “de-cap” its memory chips.
The process they described involved using acid and lasers to expose and copy ID information about the device so that efforts to crack its passcode could be simulated on another computer without risk of triggering the original iPhone’s self-destruct tool.
If indeed this is what happened, it is not easy and there’s a high risk of causing so much damage to the phone that the desired data becomes irretrievable.
By contrast, Cellebrite – a data forensics firm that has reportedly helped the FBI with the case – has previously discussed “bypassing” passcode locks rather than trying to deduce the number.
But it is possible that doing this would yield access to only a limited amount of a handset’s data.
One other point is that Apple recently updated its iOS software.
Each upgrade adds security fixes. So, if the FBI has indeed been alerted to a flaw in Farook’s phone’s security settings, that bug may no longer exist in devices that have installed iOS 9.3.
Is there any way to ensure no-one else can read the information held on my handset?
Short of destroying the device, perhaps no.
But you can use encryption-enabled apps to digitally scramble data.
The chat tool Wickr Messenger, for instance, lets you set it so that you have to enter a password each time you log back into the app.
Likewise, PQChat requires typing in a five-digit passcode of its own to get access.
So, even if a cracked iPhone did give up the contents of its text messages, emails and WhatsApp chats, the contents of the apps mentioned above should remain safe.
All this presumes, however, that the authorities do not manage to install spyware on your device. If that happens, all bets are off.
What is the situation in the UK?
As part of her efforts to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, the home secretary Theresa May has said that tech firms wouldn’t have hand over encryption keys or build backdoors into their platforms.
But the law still makes mention of “equipment interference warrants”.
Campaigners at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned that these could be used to force Apple and others to insert new code into a device in order to help the authorities extract data, in a similar manner to the FBI’s earlier order.
The EFF adds that “matching gag orders” would prevent the firms from informing their customers or even their own lawyers about the act.
Equipment interference warrants already exist under the UK’s current law.
And for now, the focus of Apple and other tech firms is getting the Investigatory Powers Bill amended to say that in the future the warrants could only be amended with the permission of a judge.
But were there to be a case where the UK police attempted to coerce Apple to override its protective measures, it might still resist – even if the fact never became public.
15-Month-Old P2P Credit Fintech, P2vest Celebrates 100,000 Users
P2vest, a peer-to-peer lending platform by P2vest Technology Limited, has commemorated gaining 100,000 users on its platform since its launch in 2020.
With a mission to transform the way people access credit and lend money by bringing borrowers and lenders together, the platform states that it allows for quick loan disbursement and a flexible payback plan, safer than offers received from loan sharks.
Cash-strapped borrowers for a while now in Nigeria, have been at the mercy of lenders who use unscrupulous means to recover loans. These lenders who conduct their businesses unprofessionally go as far as marring the integrity and characters of the borrowers and their innocent guarantors.
Promising to provide a better approach to lending and borrowing within peers through the utilization of artificial intelligence, the Founder and CEO of P2vest Technology, Mr Austin Abolusoro says that, ”Our goal at P2vest is to build a platform that delivers on ease of access to credit while also building a credit history. Our approach is different, we are using Artificial Intelligence to ensure credit-worthy Nigerians have access to quick loans.”
According to Abolusoro, the 15-month old financial technology company bridged the gap of loan access by connecting authorised lenders with borrowers, while helping them take control of their debt, grow their businesses, and invest for the future.
“Since we launched (in 2020), we have provided access to quick loans to over 105,000 Nigerians. This is a big achievement for us as we have availed people the chance to access loans for their different needs like setting up of businesses, house renovations, Car loans, paying rent, school loan, medical bills on the platform faster and without delay. While also creating an opportunity for people to borrow more as long as they continue to pay back,” he said.
Speaking on its mode of operation, the company states that it uses the Sharing Economy Technology. The sharing economy technology is a new model of consumption, sharing, collaboration between individuals of goods, services, resources, with or without monetary exchanges via dedicated platforms.
The adoption of the sharing economy technology and its model has allowed the fintech credit world to develop over the years. Its growth now creates room for P2P economy to thrive as they cut out the role of third parties.
On the P2vest platform, users are encouraged to grow their money by “becoming a lender on our easy-to-use platform. Give out loans tailored to you and your income, and earn attractive returns.” Borrowers on the other hand are to provide their accurate info, including bank details, where payments of loan, when due are automatically withdrawn from the accounts.
Angel Investors Plans to List Africa-Focused SPAC Targeting Tech Startup
Angel Investors, Vishal Agarwal an investment banker, and Raj Kulasingam, a corporate lawyer have stated plans to list Africa-focused SPAC targeting only tech startups in the continent.
A report from Bloomberg said the two early-stage investors have been funding African startups since 2017, invested in over 50 startups, and so far made fivefold returns on their investment. They were also part of Acuity Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with stakes in Flutterwave Inc. and Paystack before the firms attained unicorn status.
Vishal and Raj saw the successful investment strategy of Swvl Inc. a Dubai-based ridesharing company merging with Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, a blank-check company. The two investors believed that listing an African-focused SPAC will provide funds for startups needing capital to expand operations in the continent.
Vishal affirmed that investors have developed a keen interest in Africa, he said, “as there is more interest in Africa, we want to give founders a route to market. A SPAC gives acceleration to our founders and is overall a good thing for the ecosystem.”
The growing interest in African startups has been asserted by Briter Bridges in the 2021 African Investment Report, which released data showing that African startups secured $4.69 billion in estimated funding in 2021, where the tech companies dominated the space by gulping $2.9 billion or 62 percent of the total funding.
However, data from SPAC research revealed that less than 1 percent of the 600 New York-listed SPACs are African-focused.
The biggest investment success recorded by Vishal and raj was with Kuda Bank, the African challenger bank, where they invested $600,000 and exited with 14.5 fold gain or $8.7 million in 20 months. Kuda Bank, a unicorn startup is valued at $500 million and has so far raised $91.6 million in funding.
Vishal said, “when we do dealmaking, we are influenced not only by being able to get in at the right price, but being able to come out, We are very conscious about that, and it’s not always straightforward to come out.”
Dario Giuliani, director of Briter Bridges said, “2021 was a year of recognition, where the newly-available resources and the increasing number of international investors shifting mandates to include Africa met hundreds of promising entrepreneurs to support”.
Vishal and Raj just like every investor identified a growing economy in Africa and the increasing tech-savvy youth population, but also the lack of financial infrastructure. The duo plans to fill this gap by investing in about 20 African startups this year.
Apple iOS 14 Users No Longer Receive Security Updates
In a move to push customers to use the iOS 15, the global leading smartphone company, Apple has announced that iOS 14 (iOS and iPad 14.8.1) users will no longer receive security updates.
This announcement comes months after the iPhone and iPad Operating Systems 14 (iOS 14) got its final update in October last year.
Disclosing that they cannot update the iOS 14 version, the users say that they were rather given no option than to use the 15.2.1 version, which the company introduced in June 2021.
According to Apple, the iOS 15 is an update having new features for FaceTime calls, tools to reduce distractions, a new notifications experience, total updates for Safari, Weather, and Maps, and more. iOS 15 also includes new privacy controls in Siri, Mail, and more places across the system to further protect user information.
However, during the launch of iOS 15 in September last year, Apple had assured users who didn’t want to upgrade from iOS 14, that they would still be able to receive critical security updates.
In fact, the iOS 15 is compatible with every iOS 14 device, so there are no hardware conflicts. This gave the impression that both versions, depending on whichever a user chooses, can be used. However, Apple who has been urged to be clear on its security update policy, has directed all users to get the latest OS version, as the former will no longer receive updates.
In a statement to Ars Technica, the smartphone maker noted that allowing both OS to operate was intentional. It also said leaving the previous security updates for iOS 14 was only meant for a temporary grace period, and not a situation where both OS systems could coexist.
Arguing that Apple never mentioned this when it first announced and launched iOS 15, Techspot pointed out that the company still makes available security updates for the previous MacBook operating systems (macOS), alongside its latest one. The two previous macOS versions, Big Sur and Catalina are still allowed to receive updates, alongside Monterey, which is the most recent version of the two. It should be noted that Catalina is a year older than iOS 14.
The company in a space of two months always introduce the latest iPhone, iPad or iPod operating systems. The latest versions, iOS 15.2.1 and 15.beta.3 were released on January 12, 2022. Without updating each versions, it is believed that each iOS can last for a long time. But eventually, apps cannot be used as the iOS isn’t updated. It is also possible that GPS will stop working. The lack of update can affect WiFi too.
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