They were joined by MIT research scientist Daniel Weitzner, University of Pennsylvania associate professor of computer science Matt Blaze, RSA security firm president Amit Yoran, and Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell.
Charles Cohen, a commander in the in state police, repeated the suggestion that Apple had quietly co-operated with Beijing, which strictly regulates technology in exchange for access to its market.
The hearing was called to discuss how strong encryption is hampering law enforcement and how technology firms should respond to legitimate law enforcement requests to break encryption.
During the hearing, Sewell was pressed by law enforcement officials regarding reports that Apple has handed over information to Chinese authorities, despite its refusal to aid in situations like the controversial San Bernardino case.
“Encryption today is the backbone of our cybersecurity infrastructure and provides the very best defence we have against increasingly hostile attacks”, he added.
Between October and March, the NYPD was locked out of more than 100 encrypted devices, including 67 Apple devices, used by criminal suspects in murders, rapes, and other cases, Galati said.
The FBI eventually dropped its request after third-party hackers offered an alternative method of cracking the phone that didn’t require Apple’s assistance.
That weakness was vividly demonstrated when the Federal Bureau of Investigation tried to force Apple to help unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook. “As you heard from our colleagues in law enforcement, they have the perception that encryption walls off information to them”, Sewell said.
“The haystack has gotten bigger but we are still looking for the same needle”, Hess said. The FBI understands the usefulness of encryption, Hess said, but companies need to find ways to give investigators user data when a warrant is presented.
In the case of Apple, which saw revenue from China grow 14 percent year-on-year to reach a colossal $18.37 billion in Q1 2016, there is much ambiguity over its relationship with the state.
“We see the world in a very different way”, Sewell said. They said the recent publicity over the issue could end up helping criminals.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently unveiled a draft bill that would effectively bar end-to-end encryption by requiring tech companies to retain a way to unlock their customers’ smartphones to comply with court orders to turn over information to federal agents and local police.
Apple has received many requests over the past two years from Chinese authorities regarding handing over its source data, but the Cupertino, Calif.-based company always refused to do so, according to a statement by Apple’s top lawyer to lawmakers on Tuesday.
In saying Tuesday that she doubts the bureau will be able to develop in-house hacking abilities, Hess also acknowledged that the FBI will continue to rely on outside contractors to hack devices in cases where companies aren’t able to help. Among the takeaways were that Apple has made no decision about whether to encrypt information in the cloud.
The professional hackers believed to have cracked the phone allegedly approached the government agency to report a software flaw in the PIN code system.