State-Level Actors

You Want The Data? Go Get It!

The FBI on Monday:

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone.


Without any doubts, when the government issues a legal warrant (such as the one they had back in December to searh Farook’s car), they should puruse all avenues of investigation, and subpeona all those who have information to give. Apple provided all the information it had, via Farook’s iCloud backup. It didn’t have the information on the phone itself, and had not access to the information. The extraordinary request to backdoor the phone crossed the line.

The FBI is now confirming what many in the industry have been saying - they don’t need Apple to get into this phone.

Jonathan Zdziarski’s take:

NAND mirroring is likely being used to some degree to brute force the pin on the device. This is where the NAND chip is typically desoldered, dumped into a file (likely by a chip reader/programmer, which is like a cd burner for chips), and then copied so that if the device begins to wipe or delay after five or ten tries, they can just re-write the original image back to the chip.


The implications of this method are brilliant - but they would take significant resources (manpower, research, funding) to do. The resources at play here are and would only be accessible to high-level actors like a national law enforcement agency. It was wrong for the FBI to attempt to coop Apple into backdooring their own product, but I have no qualms with a method like this.

Warrants should give law enforcement the power to acquire data off phones, but not at the expense of creating a software backdoor. An effort like recovering data from an encrypted device should take the dedicated efforts from a state-level actor. If the FBI wants the data, they need to go get it themselves, and this method may be how they accomplish that. I’m good with them legally breaking into phones - as long as it’s from the outside looking in, not the other way around.


Israel’s Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

[Reuters via The Loop]

Typed on AEKII & Octopage

When You Say Photocopying Machine...

In 2010, the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio changed their policy about copying records. Digital files would no longer be available, and the public would have to make hard copies of documents for $2 per page. This would prove to be prohibitively expensive for Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight, companies that collect hundreds of pages of this public information each week. They sued the Recorder’s Office for access to digital versions of the documents on a CD. In the middle of the case, a lawyer representing them questioned the IT administrator of the Recorder’s Office, which led to a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.

Wait for the punchline at the end.

[via NYT]

Typed on AEKII


I haven’t cared for many of Apple’s latest ads featuring hands-free Siri. Celebs using Siri doesn’t speak to me - this does.

There’s something powerful about nostalgia. I love it.

[via Loop Insight]

Typed on AEKII

More For The Collection

Last week I got in some new parts for a future build, a lovely Zorbcaps artisan keycap, and a really unique new-in-box vintage board.

First: a blue Tex aluminum 60% case. This is just like the case I’ve got on my white alps board. This one will be used for the blue alps build.

The case is anodized aluminum. It has a beautiful blue color, and it just looks stellar under the lights.

Pictured below is the HHKB style plate that will go along with this build. The plate is laser cut steel that will be painted blue to match soon.

Second: a Zorbcaps Chilly Entling. My collection of artisan caps is slowly growing. I’m no BBv2 fiend, but I’m pleased with what I’ve acquired thus far. The Chilly Entling has a subtle offwhite color with pale blue accents. The inspiration being Ents from LOTR.

Finally: a new in box IBM keyboard from the mid 1980s. This is a model 6112884, which is related to the infamous IBM 4704 boards.

Unlike most IBM boards using buckling spring switches, this variant uses Alps switches. Specifically it’s equipped with Alps SKCC(also called Alps T Mount) switches, which predate the SKCM switches I’m so fond of. The SKCCs in this board are heavy green linears with a sublte soft bottom out.

The board has AT for connectivity, and what appears to be dyesub PBT keycaps. Notable about this board is its Japanese layout and legends. Unlike most alps boards, the keycaps here are high-profile sphericals. They have much more in common with Signature Plastics SA profile than the typical OEM style profile seen on most Alps boards at that time.

It’s amazing to find a board from that era in this condition, much less for the price I paid for it. I picked this up for $25+ shipping from Mendelsons, a warehouse liquidator in Ohio.

As is sits right now, the board is not compatible with modern-day computers, but I’m sure I’ll make a future project of either converting it by hand-wiring a matrix, or by using one of Hasu’s converters.

Typed on AEKII

Data911 Rebuild

Why bother painting the back of the fence?

Data911 w/Reds

The Data911 (as it’s called by some) is a 75% board with included trackpad manufactured by TG3. If you’ve found yourself in the front seat of a police cruiser, there’s a decent chance you’ve encountered this board, but not known it. It was originally designed for law enforcement to be used in their vehicles.

As far as I’m aware, it’s no longer in production, but the boards are easy to come by on eBay for around $25 + shipping.

Data911 PS/2 variant

There have been several versions of this board, the initial model had PS/2 connectivity, subsequent models used USB, and the non-law enforcement variants omit the trackpad. The board I’ve got came with USB connectivity, red LED backlighting, a trackpad with Omron microswitches, and Cherry MX black switches.

Originally I’d bought the PS/2 variant, as the USB based models had yet to become available on the surplus market. I went down a long rabbit hole of trying to convert the PS/2 connection to USB without the use of an external adapter - but I later switched to a USB version. Good thing I did, this attempt at an adapter was rough.

Adapter mess

The Data911 is very easy to disassemble, there are a few phillips head screws on the bottom, once those are removed the PCB becomes accessible. I cleaned up the case with soap and water, and refurbished it with Mothers’s plastic conditioner. The keycaps were cleaned in a denture cleaner bath.

Once all keycaps have been removed, one can see plastic membrane protecting the switches. It’s definitely an odd feel when typing on an unmodified board, with heavy 50g linear black switches made tactile by the membrane - it was removed.


Board removed

The trackpad and buttons were removed, and all the gunk cleaned off using alcohol.

Ugly Trackpad

The board ships with red LEDs on every key. Not being a big fan of backlighting I opted to remove and dispose of most of them.

I decided that the MX blacks (although very well broken in) wouldn’t be suitable for this board long term, so they’ve all been replaced with Gateron reds.

After removing bottom case

PCB with Cherry MX Blacks

Mid-rebuild Data911

After installing all the keycaps and verifying they were functional I did opt to return a few of the LEDs to the board. I retained the LEDs on the arrow keys, and escape.

Reds installed, leds

While this board is compact and really quite elegant, it does ship with a long pigtail cable. I’m sure that when it was new the cable looked great, but after who-knows-how-many years in the center console of a police cruiser it was beat up and looking quite shabby. I decided to remove the pigtail cable, and terminate it inside the board with a female mini USB connection. Here we see the port mounted to the case of the board. While it may not look pretty, it’s fully functional, and solid.



The weird thing on this board is the wiring for the LEDs. I am no PCB expert, but I must think that they are wired in series, as the LED at the escape position did not work initially. While I do not have a picture of it, I was able to resolve the issue by running a cable from the up arrow LED position to escape. It was totally worth the extra work, because my Dark Lord keycap looks KILLER with the backlight.

Lord Vader

When I did this rebuild, it was just as I was getting into the hobby. I won’t deny the work looks quite rough, but it was a good adventure that taught my a lot. I’m quite pleased with how this rebuild turned out.

Rebuild Board

Typed on MacBook Pro