FBI complains it can't break encryption on phone used by San Bernardino terrorists

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FBI technicians have been trying and failing to break the encryption of a phone used by the couple who killed 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. in December, according to FBI Director James Comey.




"We still have one of those killers' phones that we haven't been able to open," said Comey at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "It has been two months now and we are still working on it."

Though the exact kind of phone used wasn't mentioned during the hearing, the difficulty encountered by the FBI would suggest a relatively recent iPhone or Android device with support for full-disk encryption. Once a passcode is enabled, such devices can be essentially impossible for outside parties to break into. Apple itself has claimed that it can't crack an iPhone with iOS 8 or 9, even when served with a warrant.

Comey repeated his stance that encrypted phones and messaging services are making it increasingly tough to pursue some investigations and surveillance. He denied that he wanted companies to offer backdoors, but nevertheless insisted that they should be able to offer data access when presented with a court order.

"I don't want a back door... I would like people to comply with court orders, and that is the conversation I am trying to have," he explained.

Different factions in U.S. business, activism, and government are battling over whether companies like Apple should be legally required to offer a way around encryption. The most recent salvo came in the form of the ENCRYPT Act, a proposed bill that would prevent individual states and localities from mandating decryption support.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 76
    For encryption to protect anyone, it must protect everyone.
    irelandpmzcincyteemwhitepalominebobroobdkennedy1002mike1jbdragonjahblade
  • Reply 2 of 76
    It's kind of stupid for these agencies to advertise the fact that they can't break the encryption. Most criminals don't follow tech circles and would not even know about it except for the very public argument. 

    oneof52chiamacky the macky
  • Reply 3 of 76
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Why do they think they are entitled to this? Because they label them terrorists? Even criminals have rights. It's all that keeps them from framing anyone they desire.

    I don't give a shit what you want FBI. Solve your crimes another way.
    latifbpbobroojahbladelord amhrantdknoxmagman1979tape
  • Reply 4 of 76
    They need hire the right people who can.. 
  • Reply 5 of 76
    irelandireland Posts: 17,585member
    Swallowing the world's data didn't prevent 9/11, in fact some very intelligent ex-intelligence members suggest it helped prevent thwarting it. Bad things are always going to happen, without bad good wouldn't be good. It's physics. The real question is who are the enemy? I suggest both terrorist and governments are the enemy. Both operate from a starting point of fear and both cannot be trusted.
    bdkennedy1002jbdragonjahbladetdknoxchiamagman1979
  • Reply 6 of 76
    The IRS recently losing the data of 100,000 taxpayers to hackers, after previously losing 300,000.
    Hackers recently released into the wild the personal information of 20,000 FBI employees.
    Hackers recently release into the wild, the personal information of 9,000 Department of Homeland Security Employees.

    The government cannot protect its own computers from hackers.
    Backdoors will be found by hackers.
    In fact, they will make encryption far easier to break.  It will be like hiding the key to a house under the front doormat.

    jbdragonsandortdknoxchiamagman1979jfc1138
  • Reply 7 of 76
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,688member
    If it has a finger print sensor, warm up their dead fingers and have at it. 
    mwhitebobroojbdragonchiajcraig
  • Reply 8 of 76
    jungmark said:
    If it has a finger print sensor, warm up their dead fingers and have at it. 
    Can biometric sensors work as necrometric sensors?
  • Reply 9 of 76
    <quote>"I don't want a back door... I would like people to comply with court orders, and that is the conversation I am trying to have," he explained.</quote>

    Um, I'm sure some crafty lawyer can get a court order in certain jurisdictions demanding that God compensate for tornado damages, too.  But it's not gonna happen either.
  • Reply 10 of 76
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,072member
    For encryption to protect anyone, it must protect everyone.
    Yeah, well there’s a difference between you protecting your drunken orgy photos and a pedophile protecting the photos of abuse of a three year old child isn’t there. And for those who are always screaming about the Fourth Amendment try reading it sometime. It has an intentional back door that the founding fathers put there so legitimate, legal search and seizure can take place.
    firelock
  • Reply 11 of 76
    have they tried
    ' password ', all lower case, of course?
  • Reply 12 of 76
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    jungmark said:
    If it has a finger print sensor, warm up their dead fingers and have at it. 
    Can biometric sensors work as necrometric sensors?
    The iphone fingerprint sensor can be defeated by modelling a print off the device itself.  If it is an iphone they should have used they dead person's finger to unlock the phone before a passcode was needed, then they would be in already.

    Besides that, they can get all call records and internet history from the carrier.
  • Reply 13 of 76
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member


    Comey repeated his stance that encrypted phones and messaging services are making it increasingly tough to pursue some investigations and surveillance. He denied that he wanted companies to offer backdoors, but nevertheless insisted that they should be able to offer data access when presented with a court order.

    "I don't want a back door... I would like people to comply with court orders, and that is the conversation I am trying to have," he explained.


    That is very simple. All they need to do is require owners of phones to register their passwords on a database the FBI maintains for the purpose. By law they cannot access your phone without a court order giving them access. Done.

    Oh wait...that won't really work, will it? I mean...what if an accused criminal changes the password? 

    He wants a back door. 
  • Reply 14 of 76
    lkrupp said:
    For encryption to protect anyone, it must protect everyone.
    Yeah, well there’s a difference between you protecting your drunken orgy photos and a pedophile protecting the photos of abuse of a three year old child isn’t there. And for those who are always screaming about the Fourth Amendment try reading it sometime. It has an intentional back door that the founding fathers put there so legitimate, legal search and seizure can take place.
    The trouble is, how would you know those pictures are on the device without getting into it first? If they KNOW they are there and the defendant blocks access then there are laws to charge him/her for that offence. If they don't KNOW the photos are on the device, what right have they to force it to be unlocked to check? I'm sure entire cases and prosecutions don't hinge on access to one device, there must be other evidence and facts surely.
  • Reply 15 of 76
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,031member
    lkrupp said:
    For encryption to protect anyone, it must protect everyone.
    Yeah, well there’s a difference between you protecting your drunken orgy photos and a pedophile protecting the photos of abuse of a three year old child isn’t there. And for those who are always screaming about the Fourth Amendment try reading it sometime. It has an intentional back door that the founding fathers put there so legitimate, legal search and seizure can take place.
    That's fine but there is also the Fifth Amendment that protects a person against being compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case. I see their phone as being included in that protection. The number of attacks on private citizens based on their personal information found on computer systems is far more than the number of "terrorists" attacks. There's no way to protect everyone from all the possible events that might happen no matter how much government officials say they can. As others have pointed out, they can't even protect their own systems. Maybe they should look into how Apple is protecting systems and change their methods instead of taking the easy way out and demanding open systems again. It's ironic to watch NCIS and see computers wide open without a screen lock when people leave their desks. I know this happens because people are lazy. I also know many people don't put a PIN on their phones, have auto-login on their computers, and wouldn't know how to protect anything that's computerized. Apple (and others) are trying to help these people. 
    tape
  • Reply 16 of 76
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,884member
    Oh well.
  • Reply 17 of 76
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Funny how the FBI message is about how hard it is for them to get into a terrorists phone and yet not a word about how easy it was for a terrorist to obtain the weapons with which to commit the act of terror.
    dysamoriabadmonk
  • Reply 18 of 76
    Maybe they should have done their job BEFORE the attack using all of the surveillance privilege with the PRISM that the American people didn't know about. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 19 of 76
    rob53 said:
    lkrupp said:
    Yeah, well there’s a difference between you protecting your drunken orgy photos and a pedophile protecting the photos of abuse of a three year old child isn’t there. And for those who are always screaming about the Fourth Amendment try reading it sometime. It has an intentional back door that the founding fathers put there so legitimate, legal search and seizure can take place.
    That's fine but there is also the Fifth Amendment that protects a person against being compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case. I see their phone as being included in that protection. The number of attacks on private citizens based on their personal information found on computer systems is far more than the number of "terrorists" attacks. There's no way to protect everyone from all the possible events that might happen no matter how much government officials say they can. As others have pointed out, they can't even protect their own systems. Maybe they should look into how Apple is protecting systems and change their methods instead of taking the easy way out and demanding open systems again. It's ironic to watch NCIS and see computers wide open without a screen lock when people leave their desks. I know this happens because people are lazy. I also know many people don't put a PIN on their phones, have auto-login on their computers, and wouldn't know how to protect anything that's computerized. Apple (and others) are trying to help these people. 
    They're dead.  They can't incriminate themselves.  
  • Reply 20 of 76
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,116member
    lkrupp said:
    For encryption to protect anyone, it must protect everyone.
    Yeah, well there’s a difference between you protecting your drunken orgy photos and a pedophile protecting the photos of abuse of a three year old child isn’t there. And for those who are always screaming about the Fourth Amendment try reading it sometime. It has an intentional back door that the founding fathers put there so legitimate, legal search and seizure can take place.
    There is nothing stopping the FBI or the police to get a Court issued Warrant handing it to you and making you unlock your device. If you don't do it, you get thrown in jail. That can already be done and has been done in the past. Then there's no back doors. No Government spying on you behind your back. This is how it should be done anyway. If the people are dead where that doesn't work, well problem is solved anyway, they're dead. No trial needed for them. There is zero need to create some huge hole in everyone's security for the government to spy on a tiny percentage of people. Unless it's because they want to spy on everyone!!!!
    dysamoriatallest skil
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