Encrypted Messages, How Far Is Too Far?

Have you recently come across a news article referencing a court battle between Apple and the FBI? It’s been in the headlines for quite a few months now, and it’s become quite the controversy.

The controversy gained notoriety following the incidents in San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in that incident had an iPhone, which the FBI wanted to unlock for further evidence. Apple’s refusal to assist the FBI has resulted in a long battle between the two where opposing sides have presented valid arguments. It has since turned into a heated controversy between privacy and safety.

Raymond Payne Cyber Security

The FBI had a court order compelling Apple to assist with breaking into the shooter’s phone ; however, Apple refused to comply and opted to fight the order. Apple has long been advancing their security systems, and promotes guarantee user privacy. In an article for theguardian.com, Stephen Colbert, of the Late Show, referenced Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook’s opinion on developing a software to unlock iPhone’s for the FBI,  “He said you can use it to turn on my iPhone and spy on me if you wanted to once you had access.” Apple had released a letter in early February addressing the controversy stating, “We oppose this order which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Apple goes on to further explain the need for encryption. Their argument is that people often have sensitive information on their smartphones, whether that be personal information, financial data, or what have you; without encryption you’re leaving highly sensitive information subject to hackers or criminals who wish to access that information. Apple goes on the reiterate that compromising such information puts customers’ safety at risk.

On the contrary, the FBI feels as though not have access to encrypted data puts the public at risk. The US attorney for the Central District of California, Eileen M. Decker, made a statement in regards to their case against Apple, which was featured on cnet.com, “We sought an order compelling Apple to help unlock the phone to fulfill a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting — that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack,”. A Justice Department spokesman, Marc Raimondi, made a statement also featured on cnet.com, “it remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety,” James Comey, director of the FBI, made a comment to the House committee when questioned on his actions, “It’s not Apple’s job to watch out for public safety, that’s our job.” Essentially, the FBI feels as though if the data being requested has to do with national safety, individual privacy should be compromised.

The case between Apple and the FBI concluded when the FBI successfully hacked the iPhone in question. As the case concluded before a ruling, the controversy remains very much at large. Where is the line between personal privacy and national security? How far is too far when it comes to encryption?


Ransomware Breaches Apple

Long before the iPhone and iPad, most people sought to purchase an iMac over a regular PC for the general connotation that Macs didn’t get viruses. Unfortunately, in a time where “ransomware” hackers have infiltrated what was believed to be rather secure networks, Mac computers are no longer in the clear. Raymond Payne

Cnet.com released an article this week in regards to what researchers say to be “the first real-world rasomware meant to hit Macs”.   A BitTorrent software, Transmission, which is commonly installed on Apple’s OS X operating system for users to access shared files, was recently discovered to be infected with the ransomware. The article shares a quote from the director of the researchers at Palo Alto Networks, who were responsible for discovering the attack, “This is the first one in the wild that is definitely functional, encrypts your files and seeks a ransom,”

The virus infects the computer much like every other ransomware, it encrypts all your files and in some cases suspends any functionality until the note is paid, which was noted to be $400. According to cnet.com, the Palo Alto Networks team notified both Apple and Transmission on March 4th. Apple has since updated their XProtext antivirus software.

Transmission is essentially an open source, so researchers also entertained the possibility that the website “was compromised and the files were replaced by recompiled malicious versions”. Although the situation is under ropes, users are certainly questioning the “untouchable” reputation Mac computers once had. As always, be conscious of the links you’re clicking and websites you frequent. Be sure to backup your data on a regular basis, update your software, and use a reputable security suite. In the event you suspect suspicious activity you should disconnect from the network immediately to prevent a further breach.