FBI Director Christopher Wray believes that the Bureau’s inability to access encrypted data from electronic devices is a threat to public safety.
During the last fiscal year, nearly 7,800 devices could not be accessed even with proper legal authority, due to industry-standard encryption on many smartphones. Many technology companies believe that lowering security standards on smartphones would undermine their security, a large sticking point for the FBI. According to authorities, continued battles over encryption could pose a potential threat from hackers and make the internet less secure. Wray believes that it would take significant innovation to create a system that would allow the FBI access without compromising the security of electronic devices. [Source]
(Analyst Comment: As we’ve covered before, the FBI has a real problem with trying to unlock phones, but we don’t believe that tech companies are going to so easily accede to FBI demands. In previous years, the FBI and some lawmakers on Congress have lobbied tech companies to create ‘backdoors’ in their proprietary encryption algorithms so that authorities can access smartphones, when allowed by court order. The one problem: any well-meaning backdoor in these products would be potentially exploitable by both foreign intelligence organizations and criminal hackers. So far, tech companies have publicly pushed back on FBI concerns, citing the interest of consumer privacy and brand trust… publicly, that is. Let’s not forget that, according to Wikileaks and the Snowden files, the National Security Agency negotiated with private corporations to introduce backdoors into electronic components, like processors, so that NSA hackers could gain remote access. And NSA hackers are believed to be currently working clandestinely at tech giants like Google and Microsoft, in order to aid NSA surveillance. There’s no reason to believe that FBI attempts to do the same would be impossible. As for the encryption battle, we do expect the Congress to take up the issue in the future. A loss in the encryption battle, even a minor one, could severely impact the privacy of all Americans.)
Interested in receiving future reports like this one, with expert analysis from U.S. intelligence and special operations veterans? Subscribe here.