Apple hires crypto-wizard Jon Callas to beef up security

By Lain Thomson for the Register

Apple has added a security star to its firmament with the hire of Jon Callas to its security team.

Callas, who you may remember from cofounding such firms as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and Silent Circle, has already been an Apple employee twice before. He worked at Apple in the 1990s and rejoined for a couple of years from 2009 to 2011 to help beef up OS X’s security chops.

Apple declined to comment on the hire.

Callas worked at Digital Equipment after graduating university, before going to Apple in 1995, where he worked on the firm’s encryption and data protection systems. He left in 1997 to become chief scientist at PGP. He left PGP after it was taken over, but rejoined as a founder of the rebooted company in 2002, where he developed the OpenPGP standard.

In 2009 he left to become a “security privateer” and served as CTO of Entrust before setting up Silent Circle, and then Blackphone, which builds what is widely regarded as one of the most secure mobile phones on the market.

Sources within Cook & Co tell The Reg that Callas will not be the only security expert being hired by Apple, with several more people currently being courted. It seems Apple is making a major effort to further increase the security and privacy of its systems after a series of bruising encounters with the US government.

The most recent of these concerned the FBI’s attempts to force the firm to unlock a phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino domestic terrorists. The shooter destroyed almost all of his electronic equipment except his work phone, an iPhone 5C, and the FBI tried to force Apple to break its security systems.

Tim Cook stood firm and fought in court not to develop a version of its operating system that could bypass the existing OS security, and fired up a debate over federal encroachment on privacy. The FBIbacked down, saying it had found a way to get into the phone – although there’s still no word on whether or not there was any useful info on it.

Callas is very much of the strong-crypto school of thought on such matters, and those who know him say he would rather resign and go public than put a backdoored encryption system out on the market.

That’s good news for consumers, since both of the leading presidential candidates have said Apple was in the wrong in the San Bernardino case. Donald Trump called for a boycott of Apple over the issue – although he sent them from his iPhone, in the spirit of irony perhaps.

Hilary Clinton has said she would bring about legislation to force technology companies to hand over a key to their encryption systems, although she appears to have backpeddled a bit from that position now. The other horse in the political race, Bernie Sanders, fully supports Apple’s stance. ®

First appeared at the Register