FBI couldn't access nearly 7K devices because of encryption

FBI couldn't access nearly 7K devices because of encryption
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Philadelphia. Wray said federal agents haven't been able to retrieve data from more than half of the mobile devices they've tried to access in a year. (AP Photo/Michael Balsamo)

The FBI hasn't been able to retrieve data from more than half of the mobile devices it tried to access in less than a year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Sunday, turning up the heat on a debate between technology companies and law enforcement officials trying to recover encrypted communications.

In the first 11 months of the fiscal year, federal agents were unable to access the content of more than 6,900 mobile devices, Wray said in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia.

"To put it mildly, this is a huge, huge problem," Wray said. "It impacts investigations across the board—narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation."

The FBI and other have long complained about being unable to unlock and recover evidence from cellphones and other devices seized from suspects even if they have a warrant, while technology companies have insisted they must protect customers' digital privacy.

The long-simmering debate was on display in 2016, when the Justice Department tried to force Apple to unlock an encrypted cellphone used by a gunman in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. The department eventually relented after the FBI said it paid an unidentified vendor who provided a tool to unlock the phone and no longer needed Apple's assistance, avoiding a court showdown.

The Justice Department under President Donald Trump has suggested it will be aggressive in seeking access to encrypted information from . But in a recent speech, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stopped short of saying exactly what action it might take.

"I get it, there's a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe," Wray said.

In a wide-ranging speech to hundreds of police leaders from across the globe, Wray also touted the FBI's partnerships with local and federal law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism and violent crime.

"The threats that we face keep accumulating, they are complex, they are varied," Wray said, describing threats from foreign terror organizations and homegrown extremists.

Wray also decried a potential "blind spot" for intelligence gathering if Congress doesn't reauthorize an intelligence surveillance law set to expire at the end of the year. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to collect information about militants, people suspected of cybercrimes or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other foreign targets outside the United States. Intelligence and law enforcement officials say the act is vital to national security.

A section of the act permits the government, under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to target non-Americans outside the United States.

"If it doesn't get renewed or reauthorized, essentially in the form that it already is, we're about to get another blind spot," Wray said.


Explore further

Lawyer: US needs to present better data in encryption debate

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: FBI couldn't access nearly 7K devices because of encryption (2017, October 23) retrieved 21 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-10-fbi-couldnt-access-7k-devices.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
6 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 23, 2017
This article is silly. People don't lose their Bill of Rights privileges just because the FBI decides to investigate them. Those rights don't go away even when someone is charged with a crime or arrested. In fact that is when those privileges are most needed.

The founding fathers did know about encryption. In fact, George Washington during the Revolutionary War was involved with encryption from both sides, https://www.nsa.g...2012.pdf and defended even arrested spies from forced self-incrimination. Book ciphers, if used properly, were almost as good as today's encryption methods. Difficult to use, but there are still a few book cipher messages kicking around unsolved.

So the Bill of Rights provides both protection from self-incrimination, and from having crypto keys tortured out of people. The FBI doesn't have to like it, just live with it.

Nov 18, 2017
And they will live with it, while the remote neural monitor you: http://www.bigger...den.com/
Rights, no this is the modern era where technology is used like witchcraft and the ignorant are subverted for working too long to vote and being unsatisfied with the status quo of the lack of their representative.
There is no due process. You commit "crime," even though human psychology is paralogical and law inconsistent, your brain will be entrained and you will be tormented until you die. It is a multi-billion dollar funded campaign destined to fail, because physics is king and relational objectivity is incomplete.

Nov 18, 2017
http://www.trueac...ilities/
They will chip you for being oppositional defiant even though respected neurologist V.S. Ramchandran does not believe in the diagnosis. The patient would refuse the diagnosis.
There is unclassified documentation permitting the use of "nonlethal" technology to torment people with learned helplessness, simply for be "empower"
http://www.soc.mi...2014.pdf
In the globalization of information the world shrinks. Boyscouts can make dirty bombs with fire detectors, yet it is the influence of big data correlates that gets ignored (for fire inspections and replacing their batteries). Worse it gets skewwed, filtered.
Knowledge remains power. The people will not stand for it. They want peace. They demand bread and circus. Linux and Unix is a crime. Long live the darknet, scihub, and secular belief.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more