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Tag: encryption

FBI Forensic Expert Calls Apple ‘Jerks’ for Impossible-to-Crack iPhones

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

You can excuse Stephen Flatley for calling Apple “jerks” and “evil geniuses” for building notoriously impossible-to-crack iPhones.

After all, the tech company has made work exceedingly difficult for the FBI forensic expert and his colleagues who are tasked with trying to access suspects’ cellphones.

Speaking at the International Conference on Cyber Security in Manhattan last Wednesday, Flatley said investigators are bedeviled by the iPhones’ increasingly powerful encryption, Motherboard reports. In fact, the cryptography has become so strong that not even Apple can break into a locked mobile.

“At what point is it just trying to one up things and at what point is it to thwart law enforcement?” Flatley asked. “Apple is pretty good at evil genius stuff.”

A day earlier, FBI Director Christopher Wray renewed calls for Apple to ease up on default encryption settings because they hinder investigators’ ability to collect evidence from a criminal’s iPhone.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the FBI has been unable to access data from nearly 7,800 devices.

“This is an urgent public safety issue,” Wray said.

But tech companies and digital security experts have said more lax encryption would harm internet security and enable malicious hackers.

FBI Director Wray Once Again Talks About His Grave Concerns About Encryption

FBI Director Christopher Wray (File photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Back in October, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia and talked about his grave concern he had about getting access to thousands of cell phones in criminal cases due to encryption and privacy issues.

“In the first 11 months of this fiscal year alone, we were unable to access the content of more than 6,900, that six-thousand-nine-hundred, mobile devices using appropriate and available technical tools even though we had the legal authority to do so,” he told the law enforcement group.

“Each one of those 6,900 mobile devices is tied to a specific subject, a specific defendant, a specific victim, a specific investigation. That’s more than half …..of all the mobile devices that we attempted to access in that time frame. And that’s just the FBI.”

On Tuesday, he once again emphasized his concern at New York at Fordham University’s International Conference on Cyber Security, according to a report in the Washington Post by Ellen Nakashima.

“Being unable to access nearly 7,800 devices in a single year is a major public safety issue,” he said, echoing concerns of  his predecessor, James B. Comey.

“We’re not interested in the millions of devices of everyday citizens,” he said. “We’re interested in those devices that have been used to plan or execute terrorist or criminal activities.”

Apple Served Search Warrant for iPhone of Church Shooter, But Case Unlikely to Go Federal

Church shooter Devin Kelley

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Texas law enforcement has served Apple with a search warrant for data stored on the blood-splattered iPhone used by the gunman in the Texas church shooting that killed 26 people earlier this month.

But the Washington Post reports it’s unlikely the FBI will take the case to federal court, like it did over the locked phone of a terrorist in San Bernardino, because authorities believe Devin Patrick Kelly acted alone and was not tied to terrorists. 

Nevertheless, Texas Rangers served a search warrant to obtain digital photos, messages, documents and other types of data from Kelly’s phone, a second mobile device found near his body and the gunman’s iCloud account, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

It’s unclear whether Apple will comply with the warrant or fight it like the company had in the San Bernardino case.

At the point, the feds are unlikely to make it a federal case.

“We do have a role in supporting the locals, but it’s not in FBI’s wheelhouse to run this case,‘‘ said one law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing. “It’s more of a local investigation at this point.”

FBI Missed Critical 48-Hour Window to Open Church Shooter’s iPhone

IPhone 6By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI failed to ask Apple to help unlock the iPhone of the Texas church shooter in the two days following the massacre that left 26 people dead.

Apple, which has refused to offer help unlocking encrypted phones in the past, said it offered to assist the FBI but agents never reached out, Business Insider reports

“Our team immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone,” Apple said in a statement. “We offered assistance and said we would expedite our response to any legal process they send us.”

The phone, instead, was sent to a lab for analysis.

As a result, the FBI lost 48 hours without locking the device by using the finger prints of the shooter, Devin Kelley, if the phone was fingerprint-access enabled.

That’s significant because iPhones locked with a fingerprint for 48 hours or more require the user’s passcode.

The FBI declined to comment.

Not Again? FBI Unable to Unlock Cell Phone of Texas Church Shooter

Photo via FBI

Photo via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Here we go again?

The FBI has been unable to unlock the encrypted cellphone of the Texas church shooter, mirroring similar difficulties trying to access the locked phone of a San Bernardino mass shooter more than a year ago.

The phone of Devin Kelley could provide critical information about his motive and whether anyone else was involved or knew in advance that he planned to unload his firearms inside a church in Texas. The phone has been sent to an FBI lab for analysis.

Phone encryption has been a source of frustration for the FBI, which tried to force Apple to help it access the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone last year. Professional hackers eventually helped the FBI unlock the phone

Congress has been reluctant to enact legislation that would force technology companies to help open the phones of criminal suspects.

“It highlights an issue you’ve all heard about before. With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryption, law enforcement is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio division, said, according to the Associated Press. 

Combs added: “We’re working very hard to get into that phone, and that will continue until we find an answer.”

FBI Wants to Hack into Another Encrypted iPhone Belonging to a Dead Man

Apple logoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI may be headed for another legal showdown with Apple.

Eight months after the FBI asked a court to order Apple to help hack into the encrypted iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook, the bureau has obtained the iPhone of the man who stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall, Wired reports. 

Tahir Adan’s phone is locked with a passcode, and FBI agents are still trying to access the contents.

“Dahir Adan’s iPhone is locked,” FBI special agent Rich Thorton told reporters, “We are in the process of assessing our legal and technical options to gain access to this device and the data it may contain.”

Thornton didn’t reveal the model of iPhone or its operating system.

Apple declined to help the FBI break into Farook’s phone, prompting the bureau to hire an outside entity to access the phone.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI Paid At Least $1.3M to Unlock San Bernardino iPhone, Director Suggests

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An undisclosed group of hackers received at least $1.3 million to help the FBI unlock an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, the New York Times reports. 

FBI Director James Comey was asked at a technology conference in London on Thursday how much the bureau paid for the outside group.

“Let’s see, more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months, for sure,” Comey said.

Comey makes about $185,000 a year – or $1.35 million for the remainder of his 10-year term.

The FBI had been unwilling to disclose the amount spent on unlocking the phone and declined to comment on the specific cost.

FBI Finds Useful Information on Unlocked iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

Apple-iphoneBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is making progress after cracking an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers.

Fortune reports that the phone reveals Syad Farook likely did not coordinate with another plotter.

The phone has been at the center of a heated debate over privacy and encryption.

After Apple refused to help open the iPhone, the FBI found help from professional hackers.

The FBI continues to search the phone for evidence.