Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Technology | By Russell Knight

Federal Bureau of Investigation can't access data on Texas shooter's encrypted phone


Kelley's phone was turned over to the bureau and transported Monday evening to its office in Quantico, Virginia, said Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of the FBI's San Antonio bureau, during a news conference Tuesday.

The FBI has obtained a cellphone belonging to Texas church shooting suspect Devin Kelley but can't access its contents, paving the way for a potential showdown between federal investigators and mobile device makers like the one that unfolded after the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

The FBI announced at a press conference yesterday that it was unable to decrypt the phone, calling it yet another example of tech companies thwarting law enforcement's ability to investigate crime. He went on to say that no details about the phone would be revealed in case that information proved useful to other criminals. An FBI official responded late Tuesday, saying that it was an iPhone but that the agency was not asking anything of the company at this point.

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For example, as a security measure, the fingerprint sensor on iPhones won't work if the user hasn't used it in the last 48 hours.

The FBI said in October it was unable to get data from about half of the 6,900 phones, computers, and tablets it has tried to access in the a year ago.

The FBI eventually gained entry into Farook's smartphone without Apple's help, which may be the case this time around. "We offered assistance and said we would expedite any legal process they send us". "Not long after, the feds told Apple it was an iPhone, but didn't name the model, nor did they accept the company's offer".

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Now, Apple has come out saying in a statement obtained by BuzzFeed News that it personally reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation shortly after the attack in a bid to offer "assistance" getting into Kelley's iPhone - even though the model, configuration, and security settings remain unknown, and Kelley, himself, is deceased due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound that capped his cowardly rampage.

Apple offers technical assistance to law enforcement and will help investigators access data stored in iCloud when it is able to do so.

While FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has warned that there are almost 7,000 phones that can not be opened and said that such technologies are making it harder to fight terrorism and crime, Congress has shown little interest in tackling the issue. But privacy advocates say that encrypted communications protect everyone from hackers and thieves and that the government should be able to find evidence through other means.

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The company said it worked with law enforcement agencies every day and had trained "thousands" of officers about the best way to handle its devices and how to request information.

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