Fighting Apple may, according to some, have been the FBI’s worst PR disaster in history, but even its failure to convince Congress of its goals isn’t stopping its war on encryption — with FBI director James Comey telling reporters this week that more litigation can be expected as the feds seek to hack devices.
Comey once again tied encryption into terrorism, saying that it is “essential tradecraft” of groups such as the Islamic State.
He said that of the 4,000 phones the FBI has examined since October, it has been able to unlock approximately 500 of them — although he gave no indication of how many of these were iPhones and, of those, what the breakdown of model was. We know that so far the government has been able to unlock both the iPhone 5c and 5s, but newer models are thought to be unhackable at present.
Regarding the contractor who helped the FBI hack the San Bernardino iPhone, Comey said he has a “good sense” of who it is, but “couldn’t give [out] people’s names.” Originally it was reported that hacking the iPhone in the San Bernardino shooting case was the work of Israeli-tech firm Cellebrite, although more recently it emerged that it may instead have been achieved using a group of professional hackers who specialize in hunting for software vulnerabilities.
Apple, for its part, has been strongly opposed to breaking iPhone encryption by creating a security backdoor for law enforcement officials. According to the company, doing so would set a dangerous precedent with regards to privacy and surveillance.