iPhone encryption: Turing Award winners side with Apple in fight against FBI

Turing Award winnder Whitman Diffie and Martin Hellman said they are sympathetic to the plight of FBI director James Comey, but said giving the FBI what it wants would unleash "huge" consequences that could not be contained.This year’s $1-million AM Turing Award goes to a pair of cryptographers whose ideas helped make internet commerce possible, and who now argue that giving governments a “back door” into encrypted communications puts everyone at risk.

Whitfield Diffie, a former chief security officer of Sun Microsystems, and Martin Hellman, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford University, introduced the ideas of public-key cryptography and digital signatures in 1976. The concepts are used today to secure all kinds of communications and financial transactions.

Their award, from the Association for Computing Machinery and mostly funded by Google, is named for British mathematician Alan Turing and is one of the most prestigious prizes in computing.

The honour comes amid a fight between the FBI and Apple, which is resisting government pressure to help the government hack into the iPhone of a gunman in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December.

Hellman told The Associated Press that he’s sympathetic to the plight of FBI director James Comey and those investigating the attack in which an Islamic extremist couple killed 14 people before dying in a gun battle with police.

But Hellman said giving the FBI what it wants would unleash “huge” consequences that could not be contained.

“The problem isn’t so much with this first request, it’s the precedent that it would set and the avalanche of requests that would follow,” Hellman said, adding that many likely would come from less democratic governments such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Hellman said he will sign onto one of the many “friend of the court” briefs backing Apple in the case. Tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have pledged to participate as well.

Diffie also has advocated against giving “back doors” to law enforcement, co-authoring a paper with other prominent cryptographers last year that urged the US government to carefully consider the risks.

Hellman said the encryption technologies he and Diffie invented didn’t make them popular with the government. Before their research, encryption had mainly been the realm of government entities such as the NSA. Their work allowed it to spread to the private sector.

Apple iPhone 5S to get 50% cheaper after iPhone SE launch

With all signs pointing towards iPhone SE’s launch on March 22, iPhone 5S is set to become a sideshow. Unless it doesn’t, courtesy a price cut.

KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo, who is considered the most well-informed analyst when it comes to Apple, has said in a research note that the company will slash the price of iPhone 5S by 50% once iPhone SE hits the market, according to a MacRumors report.

This means that iPhone 5S, which costs $450 in the US, would be available for $225 in the next couple of months. There is no certainty over whether this price cut would be implemented in India as well since Apple has been reducing the official prices of iPhone 5S in the country in order to keep pushing the sales in the face of ever-increasing competition from Android phones.

iPhone 5S is already available for a starting price of Rs 21,499 for the 16GB model on e-commerce websites in the country. But this may be about to change as the company is considering the reworking of its pricing strategy domestically with the launch of Apple Stores in India, which is under processing at the moment.

If the price cut is extended to India, iPhone 5S may be available for as low as Rs 12,000-13,000, making it available to a huge swath of budget buyers. This is the same price point that helped Apple’s growth in India two years ago when it started giving cash-back of Rs 7,000 to buyers of iPhone 4.

Apple patents detachable wireless earbuds

Apple's hybrid earbud concept first came to light as a patent application in the year 2012. (Apple Insider)Apple’s hybrid earbud concept first came to light as a patent application in the year 2012. (Apple Insider)
Here’s the very latest on iPhone 7 rumours. According to a report in Apple Insider, the next iPhone may come with “magnetically detachable wireless earbuds.” The rumours come courtesy a patent granted to the technology giant for a hybrid headphone design capable of both corded and wireless operation.

The patent has been awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The patent reportedly “shares design similarities with regular earbuds. Both appear, according to the Apple Insider report, “sport a main audio cord branching off into two leads — one each for right and left earbuds. In practice, however, the invention relies on two separate cables; one connecting the stereo headphones together to form a listening subsystem, and another tethering that subsystem to a host device.”

Apple’s hybrid earbud concept first came to light as a patent application in the year 2012. This was just days after the company launched EarPods with iPhone 5.

There have also been reports that the company plans to ditch the headphone jack to make way for a stereo speaker in iPhone 7.

The part of the phone that currently holds the jack — on the left hand side of the bottom of the phone — will be used for an extra speaker to allow the phone to send out stereo audio, according to a research note from analysts at Barclays.
Presently, iPhones feature just one speaker panel on the right hand side.
There have also been speculations that Apple could offer entirely wireless headphones over Bluetooth.

Keybase Releases Encrypted File-Sharing iPhone App

Keybase last week announced the alpha release of the Keybase app for the iPhone with a cryptographically secure file mount.

Keybase Releases Encrypted File-Sharing iPhone App

Users can write data in an automatically created folder in this format: /keybase/public/username. Files written in the folder are signed automatically and appear as plain text files on computers.

The folder prevents server-side and man-in-the-middle attacks, according to Keybase.

Files stream in on demand; there is no syncing as there is in Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.

Shared folders are encrypted using keys specific to the device of the person sharing them. If the device is lost, so is the private data.

Until the phone app is ready, users have to make a paper key, which is a full-powered private key that can be used to provision and rekey.

Participation is by invitation only.

The system “is a lot less complex than PGP keys and far harder to compromise, particularly with man-in-the-middle exploits,” observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

However, sync products “are generally more convenient, particularly if you’re offline a lot,”.

About Keybase Servers

Keybase servers don’t have private keys that can read users’ data. Because they can’t inject any public keys into the process, users can’t be tricked into encrypting for third parties, the company said.

Key additions and removals are signed into a public Merkle tree, which in turn is hashed into the Bitcoin block chain. That prevents attackers from commandeering and forking the server so different versions of server state are served up to different people, according to Keybase.

The server signs and publishes the root of the Merkle tree with every new user signature. Any changes in the Bitcoin blockchain can be traced back to see who changed them, making sneak attacks difficult, the company said.

“For code sharing, this could have a huge advantage over the alternatives,” Enderle said.

Leveraging Social Media

Sharing data with others is made easy because Keybase acquires public keys and public announcements of public keys from social media.

“Smack-dab in the middle of a public Reddit or … Twitter conversation, you should be able to say ‘Hey, I threw those gifs/libraries/whatever in our encrypted keybase folder’ without ever asking for more identifying info,” said Keybase cofounder Chris Coyne. Other participants in the conversation can join Keybase to access the data without having to trust Keybase servers.

“When you track someone on Keybase, you sign a portable summary of their identity, as you saw and verified it,” he said. When they use someone’s Keybase username in future, everything in the tracker statement must remain valid.

“I think enterprises will be interested in this, especially if it can be made somewhat more user-friendly,” said Mike Jude, program manager, Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“I see it as a nifty way to encrypt business communications, where the point isn’t absolute security but temporary security … defined by business needs,”.

Keybase Business Model

All users will get 10 GB of storage free. Enterprise users, and those who want more storage, may have to pay for it.

Keybase will be ad-free and will not sell users’ data, Coyne said.

“There is currently no pay model, and we’re not trying to make money,” he asserted. “We’re testing a product right now, and we’d like to bring public keys to the masses.”

However, “this system can’t even be explained in less than a page of prose,” Jude pointed out. “Getting everyone to use it, unless it’s built into the background, is a tad optimistic.”

Pros and Cons

Keybase “will need to think hard about how they allow others to use this app,” Jude suggested. “For example, does Keybase have any liability if their system turns out to be hackable? Would they recommend its use for HIPAA or financial transactions?”

Users will get a “far more secure file exchange platform” with the Keybase app, Enderle said. However, “on the downside, you’ll likely get flagged by law enforcement as a potential terrorist or criminal.”

Apple Motion Seeks to Block Feds From Acquiring ‘Dangerous Power’

apple-fbi-encryption

Apple last week filed a motion to vacate a federal order requiring the company to create a tool or code to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

The order would set a dangerous precedent and release a powerful means to breach security on potentially millions of phones around the world, Apple argued.

It transcends one phone and would empower government to make private companies compromise the security of all their users whenever it sees fit, the company said.

“This is not a case about one isolated iPhone. Rather, this case is about the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking through the courts a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld: the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe,” the motion says.

Signature Required

Apple already has tools that could compromise the security of millions of people, so the implication that this code is any different from similar capabilities the company possesses is baseless, according to Stewart Baker, partner at Steptoe & Johnson.

Furthermore, Apple has security in place to protect itself and its users from data breaches, he told TechNewsWorld.

“The code that they’re so worried will get out is no different than any of the other codes they write, in that if it gets out, then bad things will happen. Apple already protects its code very aggressively because they don’t want that to happen, so there’s no super-burden to protecting this code, Baker noted.

“This is particularly true because in order to install this code on the phone that is the target it is going to be necessary for Apple to sign the code with their super-secret signature,” he added.

“What would happen is that Apple would send this signature to the phone, which will identify itself back to Apple, which means Apple almost certainly has to be right in the middle of any such transaction. It’s not like you can just steal the code and walk off and use it — because you also have to have Apple’s signature, Baker said.

“If Apple’s signature is compromised, it’s the end of security for everyone, and they’re already in a position where they have to protect that aggressively,” he added.

The case is a matter of getting information that’s imperative to an ongoing investigation, according to Paul Charlton, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson.

“What we can say with absolute certainty is that if you think about this as something other than a technology company — if you think about this in terms of Apple being the landlord that holds within its building evidence of terrorist activity — there wouldn’t be any doubt in anyone’s mind that the government should be allowed, with the appropriate court authority, … to go in and take what they need,” he told TechNewsWorld.

FBI director James Comey “has made it very clear that what he’s interested in is not a back door, not a wide open door into this apartment complex, if you will, but entry into a specific apartment … to grab this specific piece of information. That seems narrowly tailored and wholly reasonable to me,” Charlton said.

Uninted Consequences

Creating the code the government is asking for would open a Pandora’s box of unforeseen consequences, according to Christopher Maurer, assistant professor of information technology and management at the University of Tampa.

“We see time and time again that there are really good intentions. There might be a real problem and government is not addressing the underlying issue and instead is creating other issues in the form of loopholes or unintended side effects,” he told TechNewsWorld.

One such side effect would be a precedent allowing other law enforcement agencies to order phones to be unlocked, noted Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“In terms of the idea that this is no different and that this back door doesn’t create a vulnerability is just not true. What we’re talking about is a precedent that will not just be for the FBI but will almost certainly be for those state and local law enforcement, of which there will be tens of thousands across the country. They’re all going to encounter iPhones. They’re all going to want them to be unlocked,” he told TechNewsWorld.

A back door would be a potentially hazardous tool if it fell into the wrong hands, Calabrese added.

“There’s going to have to be an entire process in place on unlocking iPhones somehow, which is to say subverting their security. That’s a giant process designed to be exploited by bad guys. And you just can’t say somehow that this is a one-off,” he said.

Congressional Action Ahead

Congress eventually will have to answer the larger privacy question, Steptoe & Johnson’s Charlton noted.

“We are constantly weighing our rights to privacy versus our need for security. That’s why we have a Fourth Amendment. That’s why we have to get search warrants before we conduct searches on individual’s homes,” he said.

“Here, that’s exactly what happened. The FBI obtained a valid court order after showing probable cause to believe that there’s evidence of terrorist activity on this phone, and right now that court order is still in place, absent the lawyers from Apple being able to reverse that order they’re going to have to turn that information over,” Charlton added.

However, incentives already are in place to ensure that customer data is secure, the Center for Democracy & Technology’s Calabrese maintained, citing the Sony hack.

“There are a lot of incentives to want to build devices that are private and secure. There are reputational harms, potential liability, the requirement that they do a data breach notice if the information gets out,” he said.

“We’ve all seen, for example, what happened with Sony and the devastating result of not having good security in their systems,” Calabrese said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published standards for good security and cryptology, he noted. “There are guidelines in place that help people know what they need to do. There are best practices out there that have nothing to do with legislation.”

On the other hand, rigid mandates might freeze the development of security technology, Calabrese added.

“You don’t want to say you must do the following six things to secure a phone when in three years those things could be totally out of date but you still have a legal requirement to do them,” he said.

“There’s a push pull when it comes to whether you should mandate security,” Calabrese added. “Our view is that you need baseline security standards, and you need to let people know what best practices are and then create incentives to get people to meet those best practices without mandating anything in particular.”

Apple FBI Standoff Stretches Into Week Two

apple-fbi-iphone-encryption-san-bernardino-terrorist

Apple on Monday called for the creation of a government panel to help resolve a standoff between the company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the issue of national security vs. data privacy.

The proposal for a commission followed FBI Director James Comey’s Sunday post on Lawfare — an apparent effort to quell the controversy. Comey emphasized that the bureau was not seeking a master key that would allow it to snoop into American citizens’ devices at will.

The American public expects the bureau to do its utmost to investigate the killings carried out in last year’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, and that includes examining the data contained in a locked iPhone 5c used by shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, he argued.

The FBI’s goal is to obtain any information that will aid its investigation within the limits of the law, and it would seek search warrants when appropriate, Comey reaffirmed.

The bureau wants Apple to disable some of the passcode protections on Farook’s iPhone, Comey said. Officials are concerned that any efforts to gain access to the device without Apple’s assistance could result in the handset self-destructing, or in the data becoming corrupted.

Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last week ordered Apple to provide assistance to the FBI by creating software that could allow authorities to access data on Farook’s handset. However, Apple has objected on the grounds that such a move would result in a general loss of user privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook shone a spotlight on the company’s dispute with FBI with the publication of an open letter defending Apple’s resistance to the federal magistrate’s order.

Master Key

The dispute appears to be one in which existing laws have not kept pace with technological advances, and both sides are making their cases on the issue.

“The FBI insists that it’s not making a blanket request covering all iPhones, but simply [seeking] Apple’s assistance unlocking one device,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“Since that would require Apple to break what it says is an unbreakable security technology, doing so would resonate across the company’s business,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The public in the past has supported government agencies’ investigation efforts, and given that 14 people were killed in the San Bernardino terrorist shooting, opinion could swing to the FBI’s side.

“Given the heinous acts related to this phone, I expect most people — were they asked directly — would side with the FBI,” said King.

Locked Horns

Judging from the tenor of their arguments, it doesn’t appear that the FBI and Apple have found any common ground.

Although a judge already has ruled in favor of the FBI, “this is going to be decided in the court of public opinion, and it will play out based on who makes the best argument to support their case,” opined Scott Steinberg, founder and principal analyst at TechSavvy Global.

“The FBI is not trying anything nefarious here. They have a concrete argument that they are trying to look for evidence that can shed some light on the shooting,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Comey’s statement is clearly meant to counter support Apple has received from other IT vendors, but in a way that’s turned this thing into a battle of PR agencies,” observed Pund-IT’s King.

Privacy Issues

Apple could sway public opinion its way through its dire warnings of how its compliance with the order could result in a loss of privacy by all handset users.

“There is the danger of creating a skeleton key that could find its way to unwanted hands and which could be abused,” Steinberg pointed out.

“The FBI claims this is a one-time use case, but who is to say that this couldn’t open Pandora’s Box, which couldn’t be closed again?” he asked.

Given that other governmental organizations — notably the National Security Agency — have been called out for surveillance programs that in some cases were conducted with the support of tech firms, it isn’t hard to see why Apple would take a hard line approach this time around.

“Absolutely, it is a concern in the age of big data, where so much information is out there, and there is this increasingly sense of paranoia — some of it rightly so — that anything you put out there could be susceptible to prying eyes,” said TechSavvy’s Steinberg.

Technological tools “can be used for good or bad by those who choose to use them,” he added.

The more powerful encryption is, and the more difficult it is to break, the more useful it can be for carrying out clandestine operations and for other disreputable purposes,” Steinberg noted.

Orchestrated Moves

Apple has demonstrated that it’s one of the least spontaneous vendors in the marketplace when it comes to reacting to issues such as this one, noted Pund-IT’s King.

“Virtually everything the company does is orchestrated, and it would be silly to think that any statement Apple or its executives make hasn’t been vetted by PR and legal teams,” he pointed out.

“The company’s request for a ‘commission’ to study the FBI request seems like little more than a delaying tactic, but that’s not surprising given the size of the stakes,” said King. “If Apple obeys the court order, it seems likely that the company’s business will be injured — particularly in overseas markets, including China, that it hopes will drive next-generation growth.”

The FBI’s iPhone Problem: Tactical vs. Strategic Thinking

apple-fbi-backdoor

I’m an ex-sheriff, and I’ve been in and out of security jobs for much of my life, so I’ve got some familiarity with the issues underlying the drama between the FBI and Apple. FBI officials — and likely those in every other three-letter agency and their counterparts all over the world — would like an easier way to do their jobs. Wouldn’t we all?

If they could put cameras in every home and business on the planet, they’d find a way to do it. That would solve a lot of the tactical challenges of being able to catch people who commit crimes. What gets missed is that strategically, it also would open the door to far more crimes.

Since law enforcement is understaffed already, the net end result would be a combination of a lot more people hurt and fewer people caught. Personally, I think more focus should be placed on prevention.

Would you agree to a process that would make it easier to catch a criminal if that same process made it far more likely you’d be a victim of a crime? What if I added the fact that the smart criminals likely would figure out how to game the new process, and the dumb criminals likely would get caught anyway (because they are dumb).

I’ll focus on that this week and close with my product of the week, which once again is the BlackBerry Priv, because it may show Apple a path out of this madness.

The Master Key/Backdoor Problem

There was a time when a lot of locks came with master keys. In fact, hotels still use them to access rooms for cleaning and maintenance. In the past, though, even some lines of home locks had master keys. The problem was that any criminal who got hold of one had access to all of the locks. Now, you can find lock sets that use the same key for different locks in your home, but most of those that use a master key have been purged out of the market, because they represent too high a risk.

The comparable concept in technology is a “backdoor,” or master password. They have been known to exist in the past, but they generally existed despite security protocols, not because of them.

Some programmer would slip a backdoor into a product either to make it easier to do something to the product, or to play a prank, or for a more nefarious reason. Backdoors typically were discovered as a result of the programmer telling someone about it, as a result of some kind of code review or audit, or as a result of an effort to correct a problem or update the product.

Like a master key, a backdoor is really hard to keep secret indefinitely; it can be passed down version to version until it’s eventually discovered. The only reason a backdoor stays secret for a short time is that at the start, it’s typically only the person who put the backdoor in who knows about it.

However, for something that is to be used legitimately, a lot of folks have to know about it — which effectively bypasses whatever security is in the product. In a world where a foreign government could resource either buying or backward-engineering a secret backdoor, creating one would be brain-dead stupid, and Tim Cook apparently isn’t.

The value of information on a backdoor into all iPhones — essentially a master key — could be worth millions of dollars, making it nearly impossible to protect.

Tactical vs. Strategic

This is an ongoing problem — not only with law enforcement, but with management in general. There is a tendency to create a strategic problem by thinking tactically. In this case, FBI officials need to get into one phone. It is very important to them. However, creating a backdoor would compromise some — or possibly all iPhone users.

The investigators can’t protect the iPhone users who then would be open to attack, but they don’t see that as a problem, because they would not be held accountable for it, and they are missioned to gain access to one particular phone.

If we went down a list of the folks who were most likely to be compromised, it would include the First Family, many in Congress, and likely not an insignificant number of FBI families. Yet this path still appears reasonable to the FBI, because the folks who would benefit would not be held accountable for the resulting problems.

Apple is on the other side. It won’t sell more phones if that one iPhone is compromised, but if all iPhones are made insecure as a result, its sales will crater. Even if Apple destroyed the backdoor after it was used and updated the phones so a similar process couldn’t work, it would have demonstrated it could do it, and that would open it to similar requests from agencies all over the world.

That could cost the company millions in additional overhead. Further, implementing a patching process just for law enforcement likely would not only make the iPhone less reliable, but also pull critical resources from competitive activities. Apple already is struggling to maintain revenue and profit, and this controversty has the potential to make that struggle impossible.

From the micro point of view, this makes sense to the FBI. However, from the macro point of view, there is nothing potentially valuable enough in that phone to justify putting so many families — and Apple itself — at risk. Just like what happened after 9/11, the FBI’s investigation could end up doing more damage to the foundation of the U.S. than the terrorists could hope to have done through their attack.

In effect, the U.S. law enforcement effort has become a force multiplier for the terrorists, due to a persistent failure to think strategically. Investigators don’t balance the cost of the collateral damage they could cause with the value of the information they are likely to get.

Wrapping Up

I mentioned 9/11 above. One of the most painful things to watch was the response to 9/11. The reports indicated that three things needed to be done. The policy of turning airplanes over to hijackers needed to be rescinded (and was). Cockpit doors needed to be hardened (and they were). Agencies that weren’t communicating needed to communicate (that has not been completed).

We so overreacted that we nearly put the airlines out of business. We put in place X-ray machines, increasing cancer risk globally, and we made air travel substantially more painful and costly. The cost of the fix exceeded by a significant magnitude the exposure we were trying to correct. In effect, the vast majority of the damage from 9/11 was done by us to us because we couldn’t balance cost and benefits.

That is also what is happening with Apple and the FBI. When law enforcement starts to become the problem to be fixed, then another path needs to be found. I should add that in this specific case, given most think their business phones are monitored and the personal phones of the terrorists were destroyed by them, there is a better than .8 probability that there is nothing of value in the San Bernardino terrorists’ iPhone anyway.

So, we are putting the most valuable company in the world at risk for what likely would produce no benefit. Only a politician could work out a rationale for doing that.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I know I already made the BlackBerry Priv my product of the week last fall(and I also made it my product of the year). However, I still carry it as my primary phone, and with all this talk of backdoors in phones made in the U.S., I’m thinking a phone that leads with security from Canada makes a ton more sense.

This phone has continued to impress me, and it has become better with age. I’m becoming more proficient at using the keyboard again, and it is still rare enough that when I drop the keyboard, folks take notice.

Priv Secure Smartphone

Priv Secure Smartphone

So, with the Priv, I get a combination of Android compatibility, BlackBerry security, and a vendor that can tell the insane U.S. enforcement types to pound sand. It’s also surprisingly attractive and distinctive.

However, the main reason I’m making the Priv my product of the week again is to suggest that Apple might want to consider moving its headquarters to Canada. It is a pretty decent country, and while it too may have crazy politicians, they don’t seem to be so crazy as to compromise their own security to access a phone that likely has nothing of value on it.

So the BlackBerry Priv, once again, is my product of the week. Go Canada!

Apple CEO Tim Cook Defends Resistance in FBI iPhone Case

Apple CEO Tim Cook Defends Resistance in FBI iPhone Case

Apple CEO Tim Cook got a standing ovation Friday at his first stockholder meeting since his company’s epic clash with the FBI unfolded. He defended the company’s unbending stance by saying: “These are the right things to do.”

On Thursday, the tech giant formally challenged a court order to help the FBI unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a murderous extremist in San Bernardino, California.

Federal officials have said they’re only asking for narrow assistance in bypassing some of the phone’s security features. But Apple contends the order would force it to write a software program that would make other iPhones vulnerable to hacking by authorities or criminals in the future.

Major tech companies are rallying to Apple’s cause, and now plan a joint “friend of the court” brief on its behalf. Facebook said it will join with Google, Twitter and Microsoft on a joint court filing. A Twitter spokeswoman confirmed that plan, but said that different companies and trade associations will likely file “multiple” briefs.

Apple filed court papers on Thursday that asked US Magistrate Sheri Pym to reverse her order on the grounds that the government had no legal authority to force the company to weaken the security of its own products. The company accused the government of seeking “dangerous power” through the courts and of trampling on its constitutional rights.

The dispute raises broad issues of legal and social policy, with at least one poll showing 51 percent of Americans think Apple should cooperate by helping the government unlock the iPhone.

The FBI and other law-enforcement agencies insist they need to get into the phone in order to run down every lead in the San Bernardino shootings, which were at least partly inspired by the Islamic State extremist group. But skeptics have questioned whether this particular device – a work phone issued by one shooter’s employer – is likely to contain much useful information. Both assailants took care to destroy their personal phones prior to the massacre.

Some police officials acknowledge similar doubts. “If they went out of their way to destroy the other phones, there’s a pretty good chance there may not be anything of value,” said Jarrod Burguan, San Bernardino’s police chief. “This may be a whole lot of saber rattling and back and forth for nothing.” Burguan, however, believes police still have “a duty and a responsibility” to make sure there’s no useful evidence on the phone.

It’s unclear how the controversy might affect Apple’s business. Analysts at Piper Jaffray said a survey they commissioned last week found the controversy wasn’t hurting the way most Americans think about Apple or its products.

At least one shareholder at Friday’s meeting voiced support for the company’s stance.

“Apple is 100 percent correct in not providing or doing research to create software to break into it,” said Tom Rapko, an Apple investor from Santa Barbara, California, as he waited in line to enter the auditorium at Apple’s headquarters. “I think if you give the government an inch, they’ll take a yard.”

Cook offered only brief remarks about the FBI case, and most questions from shareholders concerned other aspects of Apple’s business. But the CEO won praise during the meeting from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Internet rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“We applaud your leadership,” said Jackson, a longtime civil rights leader and former adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. “I recall the FBI wiretapping Dr. King in the civil rights movement,” Jackson added. “We cannot go down this path again. Some of us do remember the days of (former FBI director J. Edgar) Hoover and McCarthy and Nixon and enemies lists.”

Apple’s share price has seen little change since the issue erupted in the news last week. Overall, though, the company’s stock has declined in recent months over worries that iPhone sales were slowing around the world.

A hearing on the iPhone legal dispute is scheduled for next month.

iPhone SE, 9.7-Inch iPad Pro to Launch on March 21

Apple is expected to hold its first public event of the year during the week of March 21. The Cupertino-based company will reportedly utilise this supposed small-scale event to announce a 4-inch iPhone dubbed iPhone SE, a 9.7-inch iPad Pro model, and a range of new Apple Watch models alongside more accessories.

While earlier reports pointed to March 15 as the big date, Re/Code claims that Apple plans to hold the event in the week beginning March 21. The publication isn’t offering a firm date, however, it is strongly hinting that March 21 could be the day. A number of other outlets are also independently putting their money on March 21. The date is interesting for Apple. To recall, the Cupertino-based company has a hearing on March 22, where the company will argue about being required to hack into an iPhone to help FBI and other intelligence agencies access data of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

At the event, Apple is expected to launch a 4-inch smartphone dubbed iPhone SE, or special edition. Doesn’t ring a bell? The supposed smartphone was until recently being referred to as iPhone 5se, which didn’t make much sense to begin with. Why would Apple name an iPhone that it is launching in 2016 with the same moniker it utilised for a smartphone launched in 2013?

As for the specifications, the iPhone SE, will reportedly sport a 4-inch screen, that will not support 3D Touch functionality. The handset, other than having the same form factor as the iPhone 5s, will have nothing else in common. The innards of the smartphone are said to be A9 SoC and M9 co-processor, the combination that we saw in the last year’s iPhone models. On the photography front, the iPhone SE is said to pack in a 12-megapixel rear iSight camera, the same as the iPhone 6s.

While 3D Touch isn’t on the table, according to reports, the iPhone SE will support Apple Pay, Live Photos, and a range of the features. It will have more curved edges than the iPhone 5s, and will come in Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold colour combinations. According to analyst Ming Chi Kuo at KGI Securities, who has a reliable track record, the iPhone SE will be priced between $400-$500 (roughly between Rs. 27,500 and 34,500, which is lower than the off-contract retail price of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s. Reports also claim that Apple might slash the official retail price of the iPhone 5s in half at the event.

At the event, we are also likely to see a new iPad model. The tablet, according to a report from last week, will be very similar to the iPad Pro with same hardware innards and an Apple Pencil, save for the 9.7-inch small factor. The iPhone maker is also expected to launch new Apple Watch models and its accessories.

Apple Recruits Developer of Secure Messaging App Signal

Apple Recruits Developer of Secure Messaging App Signal

An undeterred Apple continues to put efforts on ramping up security and privacy aspects of its products and services. The latest testament of this comes in a hire that Apple made recently. The Cupertino-based company has recruited Frederic Jacobs, one of the key developers behind critically acclaimed encrypted messaging app Signal.

Jacobs sharedthe news with public on Twitter recently, noting that he has joined the iPhone maker as an intern. He will be working with the CoreOS security team. Given Jacob’s background, Apple is likely to utilise his expertise in ramping up the security of iMessage and FaceTime.

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps available. The open-source chatting platform is also Edward Snowden’s messaging app of choice. Late last year, Snowden said that he uses Signal every day. The app has been developed by a non-profit organisation called Open Whisper Systems, which also provides its technology to companies such as Facebook.

Signal app offers the ability to encrypt messages when they are in transit, and ensures that a service provider cannot read the messages. In addition, your chat messages on Signal are secure even if your keys are stolen, and Signal’s code is open for anyone to independently verify. Its security design is also properly documented, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The news comes amid Apple’s ongoing fight against FBI and other intelligence organisations to protect the security and privacy of customers.

The is the second publicly known security related hire Apple has made in recent times. Earlier this month we learned that security firm LegdaCore, which has in the past found vulnerabilities in OS X had been acquired by Apple.