In Brief

FBI locked out of 7,000 encrypted devices

Internet security tools are ‘a huge, huge problem’ for law enforcement, says FBI director

Internet encryption tools are stopping FBI chiefs from accessing nearly 7,000 mobile, BBC News reports. 

Speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia, FBI director Christopher Wray said the technology was “a huge, huge problem” and was holding back investigations.

He added: “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.”

Professor Alan Woodward, cyber-security expert at the University of Surrey, told the BBC: “Encryption that frustrates forensic investigations will be a fact of life from now on for law enforcement agencies.”

He added that while “back doors” can be employed to allow authorities access to encrypted devices, these could lead to vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals.

Over the past 11 months, the FBI was unable to unlock half the devices it targeted itself because of the security tool, says Alphr.

Most mobile devices “encrypt their contents” once they have been locked, continues the website, making it nearly impossible for third parties to access them.

Despite Wray claiming the FBI supports online security tools to some degree, “the bureau vehemently opposes the adoption of technological architectures” such as end-to-end encryption because of the problems it causes it during investigations, says Gizmodo

In 2015, says Engadget,  federal agents “went after” Apple following the events of the San Bernadino attack “as it sought access to the shooter's locked iPhone 5c”. The tech giant “staunchly refused” to unlock the smartphone. 

In the end, the FBI paid “an undisclosed vendor reportedly $900,000 (£680,000) for software that gave the agency access to the phone”.

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