Stop Bullying Apple Around and Do Some Intelligence Homework


by Avivah Litan  |  January 14, 2020  |  Submit a Comment

Apple is once again being ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to unlock terrorist iphones, and once again they are refusing. In the latest case DOJ is trying to unlock two iphones used by an aviation student from Saudi Arabia who killed three people at a Florida Navy base last month.


This same clash between DOJ’s FBI and Apple happened back in 2015 and 2016 during the well-publicized December 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting terrorist attack. See  Wikipedia on 2015 San Bernardino Attack

This time around Americans are likely more concerned about their privacy and less trusting of their government than they were way back in 2016 (and iPhone hacking tools are reportedly much more readily available and at a lower price of around $15,000).

The issue and questions around balancing privacy vs. security is a difficult one. But before we debate that balance, it would be helpful to know that law enforcement has done all it can do in triangulating and analyzing Apple phone and cloud data that they already have access to.

Here’s are two blogs I wrote after the San Bernardino shooting, after consulting former intelligence officers and other security professionals who conduct(ed) these types of investigations for a living. The same principals which applied then hold true today.

Here are key excerpts from those blogs that are still relevant to the latest incident:

Stop Bullying Apple around and Start Doing some Intelligence Homework

“Intelligence has become a data science job. Here’s how my colleague summed it up: “the daily challenge of the modern intelligence officer is to link data coming from human intelligence, signal intelligence, visual intelligence, financial intelligence, cyber intelligence… in part to make up for gaps that encrypted data communications and lack of associated metadata creates.” This is predicated on the human ability to mine the data, and the machines’ abilities to bring all kinds of data together with advanced algorithms and analytics running on top of it.”

Why the Government needs to leave Apple and Google Encryption Alone

”…it doesn’t make any sense to put so much pressure on Apple or Google when in the end, they don’t control all the keys to the kingdom, even for apps on their smartphones.”


There’s plenty of data out there for the DOJ and other agencies to work with. I wish they would stop bullying Apple and the technology industry around and spend their time and energy instead on figuring out how to rise to the challenge.  When trust is running so low, it behooves them to do so.

Additional Resources

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12030 1 Avivah Litan
VP Distinguished Analyst
19 years at Gartner
34 years IT industry

Avivah Litan is a Vice President and Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research. Ms. Litan’s areas of expertise include endpoint security, security analytics for cybersecurity and fraud, user and entity behavioral analytics, and insider threat detection. Read Full Bio

Sourced from: Gartner Blog.
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