The FBI's growing number of uncracked phones remains a mystery. The agency claims it has nearly 8,000 phones in its possession which it can't get into, despite multiple vendors offering services that can allegedly crack any iPhone and countless Android devices.
The push for mandated backdoors and/or weakened encryption continues, with successive FBI heads (James Comey, Chris Wray) declaring public safety is being threatened by the agency's locked phone stockpile. This push seems doubly insincere given a recent Inspector General's report, which revealed agency officials slow-walked the search for a third-party solution to unlock a phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter.
Legislators have taken notice of the FBI's disingenuous push for a legislative mandate. Back in April, a group of lawmakers sent a letter to the FBI asking what it was actually doing to access the contents of its growing collection of locked phones and why it insisted there were no other options when it was apparent vendors were offering phone-cracking solutions.
[W]e have submitted a FOIA request to the FBI, as well as the Offices of the Inspector General and Information Policy at DoJ. Among other things, we are asking the FBI to tell the public how they arrived at that 7,775 devices figure, when and how the FBI discovered that some outside entity was capable of hacking the San Bernardino iPhone, and what the FBI was telling Congress about its capabilities to hack into cellphones.
The FBI is in no hurry to make this information public, so it will probably take a lawsuit to get its response rolling. It still has yet to answer the questions posed to it by Congress, even as it continues to push its "going dark" narrative anywhere Director Chris Wray is given the opportunity to speak.
The ever-growing number of locked phones is a true mystery, considering the number saw exponential growth -- swelling from under 1,000 phones in 2016 to nearly 8,000 phones only two years later. This happened without exponential growth in deployed encryption, but also closely tracks with the rise of James Comey's "going dark" theory and the aftermath of the FBI's failed attempt to secure a favorable precedential decision in the San Bernardino shooter case.
Whatever is revealed should answer a few questions. Unfortunately, the answer may end up being that the FBI truly isn't interested in anything more than solutions mandated by the government.
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