Economy

Federal Bureau of Investigation again finds itself unable to unlock a gunman's cellphone

Federal Bureau of Investigation again finds itself unable to unlock a gunman's cellphone

In a press conference on Tuesday, FBI special agent Christopher Combs said the agency has not been able to access the information on Kelly's iPhone.

The FBI has not yet disclosed what type of phone was used by the shooter.

After the FBI said it was dealing with a phone it couldn't open, Apple reached out to the bureau to learn if the phone was an iPhone and if the FBI was seeking assistance.

Law enforcement officials argue that encryption that prevents a police officer from opening a suspect's phone even with a court order makes it increasingly hard to solve murders and a host of other crimes. In that case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted Apple to create a special version of its iOS mobile operating system that would allow investigators to bypass the security mechanisms on the phone-if you enter an incorrect passphrase too many times, an encrypted iPhone can erase its storage.

A new wrinkle has emerged in the case of Devin Kelley, the gunman who killed dozens of people in a Texas church last weekend, and his encrypted smartphone.

Former FBI Director James Comey pressured Apple CEO Tim Cook roughly two years ago to help law enforcement officials gain access to the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook - one of the perpetrators in the San Bernardino mass shooting - but Cook declined.

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But there are often other ways to access information kept on phones. That's even true for Apple's iCloud, where iPhones are often - though not always - backed up. Some end-to-end encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal use stronger security that locks up data with private keys, and which the companies can't unlock themselves. First, it hasn't been revealed if Kelley did, in fact, use Touch ID to secure his phone.

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.

"Unfortunately, at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone", Mr. Combs told reporters.

"Today, thousands of seized devices sit in storage, impervious to search warrants", Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said last month.

Arora said the difficulty of breaking into the phone would depend on numerous factors, including the strength of the gunman's passcode and the make and model of the phone. Second, if the phone had been powered off and then restarted, the fingerprint method of unlocking would not have worked. The newest Apple phones are believed to be even tougher to crack, following a recent update included with this fall's iOS 11.


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