The feds have been throwing a hissy fit since Apple and Google both announced that device encryption will be enabled by default on all of their mobile devices. Members of the Department of Justice have even gone so far as to imply that Apple (and, likely, Google) are marketing their devices to criminals and will ultimately be responsible for the death of a child (when all else fails just think of the children). But many people still wonder if these public tantrums are just for show. Do the feds have magical super-quantum-hyperdrive-computers that can crack any form of encryption ever?
Further evidence indicates they do not. Courts documents have been found showing how desperate the feds are getting in order to break device encryption:
OAKLAND, CA—Newly discovered court documents from two federal criminal cases in New York and California that remain otherwise sealed suggest that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursuing an unusual legal strategy to compel cellphone makers to assist investigations.
In both cases, the seized phones—one of which is an iPhone 5S—are encrypted and cannot be cracked by federal authorities. Prosecutors have now invoked the All Writs Act, an 18th-century federal law that simply allows courts to issue a writ, or order, which compels a person or company to do something.
A magical piece of paper that can compel you to do work for the state? Obviously we live in the freest country on Earth! While this story is further evidence that we’re little more than serfs in the eyes of the state it also shows that encryption works.
I know a lot of conspiracy theorists believe that the feds have magical computers that can break any form of encryption by utilizing subspace frequencies or some sort of bullshit like that. If that is true then the state must either be trying to keep it hush hush by not utilizing it (which would make it useless) or it costs a small fortune to operate (which makes it almost useless) because coercing people with the court system is terribly inefficient. So I think these court documents are a good indication that device encryption works pretty well and that’s reassuring.
Obviously rubber-hose cryptanalysis, which issuing legal threats is certainly a form of, is very effective so the question will become whether or not Apple is technically capable of bypassing the iPhone 5S’s encryption. Hopefully it is not.