Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter.
If this is really the case, if the US govt is tapping servers like this at any significant scale, then having Apple implementing encryption end-to-end in most of their products must mean that the govt is losing a hell of a lot more data catches than just the data they could get with a warrant.
The ability to recover data with a warrant is then just a marginal thing. The real problem is that their illegal taps stop working. Which means that the FBI case is a sham on a deeper level than it appears. The real panic is then about the server compromises failing.
And, of course, the end-to-end encryption with no keys server-side is also the solution for Apple. Implants in the servers then have relatively little impact, at least on their customers. The server-to-client communications (SSL) would be compromised, but not the content of the messages inside.
If the govt loses this battle, which I’m pretty sure they will, the next frontier must be the client devices. Not just targeted client devices, which can already be compromised in hardware and software, but we’re talking massive compromises of *all* devices. Having modifications in the chips and firmware of every device coming off the production lines. Anything less than this would mean “going dark” as seen from the pathological viewpoint of the government.
Interestingly, Apple has always tended to try to own their primary technologies, for all kinds of reasons. This is one reason more. As they’re practically the only company in a position to achieve that, to own their designs, their foundries, their assembly lines, with the right technology they could become the only trustworthy vendor of client devices in the world. No, they don’t own their foundries or assembly lines yet, but they could.
If this threat becomes real, or maybe is real already, a whole new set of technologies are needed to verify the integrity of designs, chips, boards, packaging, and software. That in itself will change the market significantly.
The opportunity of taking the high road to protect their customers against all evildoers, including their own governments, *and* finding themselves in almost a monopoly situation when it comes to privacy at the same time, is breathtaking. So breathtaking, in fact, that it would, in extremis, make a move of the whole corporation out of the US to some island somewhere not seem so farfetched at all. Almost reasonable, in fact.
Apple could become the first corporate state. They would need an army, though.
As a PS… maybe someone could calculate the cost to the USA of all this happening?
Even the briefest of cost/benefit calculations as seen from the government’s viewpoint leads one to the conclusion that the leadership of Apple is the most vulnerable target. There is now every incentive for the government to have them replaced by more government-friendly people.
I can think of: smear campaigns, “accidents”, and even buying up of a majority share in Apple through strawmen and have another board elected.
Number one, defending against smear campaigns, could partly explain the proactive “coming out” of Tim Cook.
After having come to the conclusion that the US govt has a definite interest in decapitating Apple, one has to realize this will only work if the culture of resistance to the government is limited to the very top. If eliminating Tim Cook would lead to an organisation more amenable to the wishes of the government.
From this, it’s easy to see that Apple needs to ensure that this culture of resistance, this culture of fighting for privacy, is pervasive in the organisation. Only if they can make that happen, and make it clear to outsiders that it is pervasive, only then will it become unlikely that the government will try, one way or the other, to get Tim Cook replaced.
Interestingly, only the last week, a number of important but unnamed engineers at Apple have talked to news organisations, telling them that they’d rather quit than help enforce any court orders against Apple in this dispute. This coordinated leak makes a lot more sense to me now. It’s a message that makes clear that replacing Tim Cook, or even the whole executive gang, may not get the govt what it wants, anyway.
I’m sure Apple is internally making as sure as it possibly can that the leadership cadre is all on the same page. And that the government gets to realize that before they do something stupid (again).