FBI Chief Says Inability to Retrieve Data from Encrypted Devices a ‘Huge, Huge Problem’

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FBI Director Christopher Wray has revealed that the law enforcement agency could not retrieve data from more than half the devices it gained access to due to encryption. The director says that this is a “huge, huge problem” as it impacts FBI’s investigations in almost every aspect. 

As per Wray, the FBI has been unable to access data from over 6,900 mobile devices in the last 11 months. It is unclear what percent of them were iPhones or iPads but given just how insecure most Android devices are, I am sure iPhones here constitute the bulk of the devices.

“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.”

Tech companies have been unwilling to help law enforcement agencies in unlocking/decrypting locked mobile devices as they want to protect the privacy of their users. However, this is creating a huge roadblock for the FBI in cases like narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, organised crime, and more.

In 2016, the FBI was engaged in a public battle with Apple to force the latter to unlock the iPhone 5c of one of the shooters in San Bernardino shooting. After a lot of back and forth, the FBI ended up taking the help of an unnamed company to unlock the iPhone 5c, though it did not get any important data from the device.

Wray, however, agrees that there needs to be a balance between encryption and user privacy.

“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.

Apple and other major tech giants are wholly against the concept of creating a backdoor for law enforcement agencies in their software as it can lead to major security risks.

[Via Associated Press]