Wednesday 28 September 2016

Apple encryption technology 'hindering criminal investigations'

Published 18/02/2016 | 21:46

Apple has marketed its encryption data as an important privacy tool
Apple has marketed its encryption data as an important privacy tool

The encryption technology on Apple mobile phones is now routinely hindering criminal investigations, police and prosecutors in New York City said.

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They predicted the problem could worsen as more criminals figure out how good the devices are at keeping secrets.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr told a news conference that his cybercrime lab has 175 Apple devices that investigators cannot access because of encryption embedded in the company's latest operating systems.

"They're warrant proof," he said.

Apple has marketed its encryption data as an important privacy tool. The California-based company is fighting a federal magistrate's order to help the FBI hack into an iPhone used by a gunman in the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned that creating software allowing the FBI to unlock the San Bernardino suspect's phone would create a backdoor that would make millions of other phones vulnerable to hackers and criminals.

The company has also resisted on the grounds that, if forced by the courts to "hack our own users," the government could be emboldened to force the company to build surveillance software to intercept all sorts of messages, "access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge".

Mr Vance said investigators often rely on phone data to investigate killings, child pornography, robbery and identity theft. He said that might include checking a suspect's contact list to get the names of witnesses or conspirators, or viewing incriminating videos and photographs.

He did not specify which New York City cases were being hindered. But Police Commissioner William Bratton said a phone seized in the investigation of the shooting of two police officers in the Bronx is among those that detectives cannott crack.

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