FBI Director Warns Device Encryption Debate Just Starting

data encryption

The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Director James Comey, said on Wednesday (May 11) that more litigation looms over devices that are mobile and consumer-oriented and that encryption remains a form of “essential tradecraft” among terrorist groups, as reported by Reuters.

The newswire said that the ongoing debate over legality and privacy concerns centers on whether the federal government can force technology firms to unlock those devices in the service of national security and that the debate will continue. Comey made his remarks during a briefing with reporters.

As has been widely reported, the Justice Department unlocked an iPhone that had been used by one of the shooters from the San Bernardino attack a few months ago. The department resorted to retaining and using an independent contractor since Apple refused to bypass the security (and encryption methods) used in conjunction with the phone.

Comey stated that some encryption offerings are actually “affecting the criminal work [of the FBI] in huge ways.” Of the 4,000 devices that have been examined by the FBI in the past few months, about 500 have proven, thus far, immune to unlocking tactics — though none of those phones are of the same model or operating system seen in the Apple device.

In the meantime, the contractor’s identity remains so well-hidden that not even Comey knows who it is.