EFF Asks FBI, DOJ To Turn Over Details On Thousands Of Locked Phones The FBI Seems Uninterested In Cracking

from the tearing-new-FOIA-holes-in-the-FBI's-narrative dept

The FBI’s growing number of uncracked phones remains a mystery. The agency claims it has nearly 8,000 phones in its possession which it can’t get into, despite multiple vendors offering services that can allegedly crack any iPhone and countless Android devices.

The push for mandated backdoors and/or weakened encryption continues, with successive FBI heads (James Comey, Chris Wray) declaring public safety is being threatened by the agency’s locked phone stockpile. This push seems doubly insincere given a recent Inspector General’s report, which revealed agency officials slow-walked the search for a third-party solution to unlock a phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter.

Legislators have taken notice of the FBI’s disingenuous push for a legislative mandate. Back in April, a group of lawmakers sent a letter to the FBI asking what it was actually doing to access the contents of its growing collection of locked phones and why it insisted there were no other options when it was apparent vendors were offering phone-cracking solutions.

The EFF has questions as well. It has sent a FOIA request [PDF] to the FBI and DOJ asking for details on the FBI’s locked phone stash.

[W]e have submitted a FOIA request to the FBI, as well as the Offices of the Inspector General and Information Policy at DoJ. Among other things, we are asking the FBI to tell the public how they arrived at that 7,775 devices figure, when and how the FBI discovered that some outside entity was capable of hacking the San Bernardino iPhone, and what the FBI was telling Congress about its capabilities to hack into cellphones.

The FBI is in no hurry to make this information public, so it will probably take a lawsuit to get its response rolling. It still has yet to answer the questions posed to it by Congress, even as it continues to push its “going dark” narrative anywhere Director Chris Wray is given the opportunity to speak.

The ever-growing number of locked phones is a true mystery, considering the number saw exponential growth — swelling from under 1,000 phones in 2016 to nearly 8,000 phones only two years later. This happened without exponential growth in deployed encryption, but also closely tracks with the rise of James Comey’s “going dark” theory and the aftermath of the FBI’s failed attempt to secure a favorable precedential decision in the San Bernardino shooter case.

Whatever is revealed should answer a few questions. Unfortunately, the answer may end up being that the FBI truly isn’t interested in anything more than solutions mandated by the government.



Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: eff

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “EFF Asks FBI, DOJ To Turn Over Details On Thousands Of Locked Phones The FBI Seems Uninterested In Cracking”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
18 Comments
Anonymoussays:

It would seem like there would be much better federal agencies for cracking iphone passwords than the FBI, such as those that specialize in signals intelligence and cryptographic analysis, like the NSA.

Maybe it’s a pride sort of thing, and the FBI just does not want to be upstaged by these other agencies.

Anonymous Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re:

So your proposing a ‘pre-crime’ unit? “Citizen, we think your thinking about the possibility that someday you might commit a crime, therefore we are declaring you guilty and impose the maximum punishment, stand against that wall, we have all the proof we need.”

That One Guysays:

'We must burn down your house to make your house secure.'

Law enforcement needs to worry more about protecting people by stopping crime before it happens, not just prosecuting the perp after the fact.

Which makes the anti-encryption push not just misguided but massively counter-productive, as it wouldn’t protect people from crime, it would lead to a massive explosion of it.

Anonymoussays:

"Locked" vs "Encrypted", 1000 -> 8000

Some possible explanations for the massive spike:

  • The agency switched to counting phones that have a PIN/password lock, even if the underlying storage is not encrypted. Remember, the goal is legislated access, so any existing barrier, no matter how easily defeated, must be marketed as impenetrable.
  • The agency stopped deploying whatever forensic tools it previously used, so the rate of seizures remained constant, but the backlog stopped shrinking. If they previously seized 5000 phones a year, but successfully accessed 4500 of those per year with their older tools, the rate of growth would have been only 500/year, jumping to 5000/year when they stop using their forensic tools.
  • The agency convinced other departments that seize phones to start sending those phones to the FBI’s central "unbreakable" pile rather than letting them languish in jurisdiction-specific evidence lockers around the country.
  • Agents (whether FBI, local, or both) have become far more aggressive in seizing anything that looks like a gun^H^H^Hcell phone, without regard to whether it is likely to have any evidentiary value.
Bensays:

Judicial push back?

"The FBI is in no hurry to make this information public, so it will probably take a lawsuit to get its response rolling."

When that lawsuit is presented to a judge, there should be a question of what plausible reason there could be to not release the count and how it was achieved. They should then be slapped down/fined/whatever to point out that they are wasting the time of the judicial branch by not following the FOIA law, which is rather hypocritical of the Department of Justice

Anonymoussays:

Officials now admit none of those statements are true

The agency claims it has nearly 8,000 phones in its possession which it can’t get into

FBI repeatedly overstated encryption threat figures to Congress, public”, by Devlin Barrett, Washington Post, May 22, 2018

The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones . . .

Officials now admit none of those statements are true.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it