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9/6/2012
08:40 PM
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FBI Pressuring Apple, Google to Crack Suspects' Devices

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is increasingly pressuring Apple and Google for assistance in bypassing encryption on suspects' iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones and tablets.

A Wall Street Journal article explores an emerging conflict between mobile device OS companies -- Apple and Google in particular -- and the FBI. The Bureau is increasingly pressuring such companies to provide assistance in cracking into suspects' computers.

The article frames many of these requests as being requests for the customer's password, but it can't be that simple. It mentions briefly that Microsoft and RIM deny ever having access to customers' passwords and thus aren't involved, but Google and Apple don't likely have access to their customers' device passcodes either. There have been many famous cases of governments pressuring RIM to allow access to normally encrypted data in-transit from BlackBerry devices.

With physical access to the device the Bureau is clearly capable of dumping the data on it and reading it, but that data may be encrypted, and the passcode is required in order to obtain the encryption key. In such cases, without the key the Bureau would be left with "brute force" decryption, which is extremely time- and resource-consuming.

The companies are often hesitant to cooperate, even if the government has a proper search warrant. The customer themselves may decline to provide a password under subpoena under the Fifth Amendment's protection against forcible self-incrimination. Often the FBI requests assistance in remotely breaking into devices still in the customer's possession.

The featured case in the story involves the Samsung Galaxy belonging to Dante Dears, founding member of the "Pimpin' Hoes Daily (PhD)" gang. Mr Dears is on parole.

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