Encryption foils FBI's attempts to unlock 7,000 devices

The FBI's boss said it's one of the authority's biggest hurdles

The FBI has failed to extract data from 7,000 mobile devices it was trying to hack, with the organisation's director saying encryption was the biggest hurdle to its work yet.

Christopher Wray told the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia that encryption was "a huge, huge problem" for FBI investigations, saying the organisation had not managed to break into half of the devices they had attempted to access.

Smartphone manufacturers and operating system providers use encryption to protect their users' data from criminals. This end-to-end encryption is almost impossible to hack into, which is good for users, but raises challenges for authorities who may need to extract data from devices to aid in criminal investigations.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"Encryption that frustrates forensic investigations will be a fact of life from now on for law enforcement agencies," Prof Alan Woodward at the University of Surrey told the BBC. "Even if the equipment manufacturers didn't build in such encryption it would be possible to obtain software that encrypted data in the same way."

Although Wray said he understood smartphone manufacturers needed to put in place strong protections to protect the public, he said a balance must be struck that allows authorities to glean information from devices if and when required.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

One notable case that prevented the FBI from accessing a suspect's device was when it wanted to break into San Bernadino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone. Apple refused to grant the organisation access and when the police appealed, a judge ruled that Apple did not have to provide the information requested. However, the FBI managed to break into the killer's device using a third-party hacker.

Featured Resources

Navigating the new normal: A fast guide to remote working

A smooth transition will support operations for years to come

Download now

Putting a spotlight on cyber security

An examination of the current cyber security landscape

Download now

The economics of infrastructure scalability

Find the most cost-effective and least risky way to scale

Download now

IT operations overload hinders digital transformation

Clearing the path towards a modernised system of agreement

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/laptops/29190/how-to-find-ram-speed-size-and-type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/data-protection/356344/eu-institutions-warned-against-purchasing-any-further
data protection

EU institutions told to avoid Microsoft software after licence spat

3 Jul 2020
Visit/mobile/mobile-phones/356335/the-man-has-ruined-my-huawei-p40
Mobile Phones

The Man has ruined my Huawei P40

3 Jul 2020