Lawmakers Raise Questions About FBI’s Push for Encryption Backdoor

A group of House lawmakers have raised questions about an encryption backdoor, following a recent OIG report that revealed the FBI rushed to court to force Apple to help it break into the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.

The report revealed that the FBI did not explore other options first, or consult with third-party vendors or with relevant FBI offices who knew of a potential solution.

The letter from a 10-strong bipartisan group to FBI Director Christopher Wray also raises concerns about statements made by the chief of the Cryptographic and Electronic Analysis Unit, which appear to “indicate that the FBI was more interested in forcing Apple to comply than getting into the device.”

It goes on to say that the OIG report, along with reports that companies such as Cellebrite and Greyshift have developed tools to cheaply unlock almost every phone on the market, suggest that the FBI has not been forthcoming about the extent of the “going dark” problem.

The letter calls on Wray to state whether the FBI has consulted with third-party vendors to understand what tools are available to access third-party content. It also asks whether Wray agrees that solutions are available to unlock or decrypt nearly every device, and if so to explain why these solutions are insufficient.

It calls for information on what tools have been used to unlock the 7,800 devices the FBI stated they have seized but can’t unlock, and how many of these are equipped with biometric data or have data available through a cloud service. Finally, the letter asks the FBI to explain the rationale of not using a third-party tool to unlock a device, in every instance where this hasn’t happened.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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