Chalk in another prominent name joining the FBI vs. Apple debate: Edward Snowden.
Commenting on the ongoing kerfuffle between the Cupertino giant and the U.S. government, in which Apple refuses to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Snowden called one of FBI's claims "horseshit."
Talking via video stream at the Common Cause’s Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, which takes place in Washington, D.C., March 8-9, the NSA whistleblower mentioned the ongoing FBI vs. Apple case as a good example of a method to protect your data from government's reach that actually works. He then goes on to dispute one of FBI's key claims in the case.
“The FBI says Apple has the exclusive technical means to get into this phone," said Snowden. “Respectfully, that’s horseshit.”
You can hear Snowden's comments for yourself, if you can endure the poor audio quality, in the video below (at 30:05).
Snowden later commented on Twitter as well, providing one example of why he thinks the FBI's claim is incorrect. It's an article by ACLU Technology Fellow Daniel Kahn Gillmor, arguing that the FBI can easily defeat the iPhone's auto-erase feature.
One of FBI's claims is that it cannot test passcodes on the iPhone as it could trigger Apple's auto-erase protection mechanism, which erases all the data on the phone after a number of failed passcode attempts. Gillmor, however, claims (and Snowden agrees) that the FBI could relatively easily desolder the flash memory chip from the iPhone's motherboard, copy its data and then later replace it in case the auto-erase feature kicks in.
We've seen other, more or less technically feasible proposals on how the FBI could defeat the iPhone's security without Apple's help. Most experts seem to agree that it's possible, but very difficult.
Snowden is the last in line of prominent figures in the IT community expressing their views on the legal battle between the FBI and Apple. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, sided with Apple, as did Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who recently called the entire case "lame."