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Encryption Cellphones Government Security Software United States Technology

FBI Repeatedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public (techcrunch.com) 160

mi shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000.

Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls "Going Dark" -- the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators' access to digital data even with a court order. "The FBI's initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,'' the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

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FBI Repeatedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public

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  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:12PM (#56656730)
    Sherlock reportedly overstated the threat of No Shit to Congress, Public. Also, Cop Math [jayleiderman.com] doesn't have a Wikipedia page. I'm genuinely surprised.
    • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2018 @12:21AM (#56657064) Homepage

      High school, it never stops, you think it's over but there it is, the same people, behaving the same way, from the teens to their decrepitude, control freaks will be control freaks and they wont ever stop. It is all as lame as that regardless of the public relations and advertising.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Its been known for millennia that power corrupts.

      And concentrating power over the world in DC corrupts. Pretty much anywhere that has no competition and ultimate power is corrupt. And the biggest monopoly in the world are the governments.

      Face it, they don't represent you, and don't represent "the people" when you have career people there fighting over how to spend your money. They are out for themselves and power (and the money that represents), and it is stunning that people are duped into believing tha

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:13PM (#56656736)
    I am hardly shocked. Law enforcement suffers from continuous mission creep. They always have and always will.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:19PM (#56656750)

    How did law enforcement solve crimes before smartphones were a thing?

    • Computers maybe.

    • by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:31PM (#56656792)

      How did law enforcement solve crimes before smartphones were a thing?

      You're making a lot of assumptions there.

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:51PM (#56656840)

      How did law enforcement solve crimes before smartphones were a thing?

      According to my misspent youth, apparently they spent a lot of time shaking down hookers with hearts of gold. Maybe they need to return to their roots, encryption is hard, but hookers are easy.

    • by Reverend Green ( 4973045 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2018 @12:55AM (#56657144)

      Why makes you suppose law enforcers are interested in solving crimes? So far as I can tell, they're mainly interested in collecting bribes from the rich, and tyrannizing the poor for fun.

      Have you noticed how in our big cities the violent criminals run wild? While three or four paramilitary "cops" will gang up to harass a jaywalker.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Have you noticed how in our big cities the violent criminals run wild? While three or four paramilitary "cops" will gang up to harass a jaywalker.

        Jaywalkers typically don't shoot back and usually have either money/property that can be "civil forfeited" or dope they can either sell and pocket the cash or use themselves, plus there's always the chance they can frighten or rattle the jaywalker sufficiently that he twitches and then they get to kill him.

        Real criminals are dangerous! The unions don't like losing dues-payers.

        Remember the unofficial police motto that the one cop who shot an unarmed dude laying on the ground multiple times was unwise enough

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        The FBI did a great job all over the USA.
        Rob a bank in a nice community and the FBI would help hunt down the person/group using advance science.
        Bad crime in some part of the USA? The FBI would always help and support local law enforcement with the latest methods and insights into criminal behavior.
        Peace groups and radical political/faith groups creating problems in communities? The FBI would place informants in such emerging groups and track their funding, supporters, politics, international connect
        • Half of those were actually the CIA. The FBI would have little/no interest in most of them.

        • Peace groups and radical political/faith groups creating problems in communities?

          Entering US politics? The FBI was always interested in anyone entering state and federal politics.

          Who was funding a politician, who a politician like to be friends with, any other "friends". Lots of files got created on all US political leaders and who supported them.

          These items seem decidedly un-American. Maybe the FBI would have a less Gestapo-ish public reputation if they stuck to chasing bank robbers and stayed out of politics.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Informants. Lots of informants. Take an offer to help the FBI and all was good.
      Massive database searches all over the USA.
      Lots of surveillance.
      Science. Talking to people in jail and prison about their crimes and understanding criminal methods.
      Anthropology and the direct study of every emerging community/cult/faith in the USA.
      The placing of vast amounts of well paid informants in every community. Political groups and new social groups/faith/peace groups/academics and other criminal groups a
    • They're not solving crimes. They're doing anti-terrorism intelligence. The idea is to find out stuff before it happens so as to prevent it. Different job. Different methods. Lying to everyone seems to be part of that job, at least the way they do it.

    • How did law enforcement solve crimes before smartphones were a thing?

      They found someone conveniently likely for a crime, then they beat them senseless until they were willing to sign a confession, just to make the beatings stopped. Then they were railroaded through 'court', and thrown in prison to rot.
      Then things like 'civil rights' started becoming a Real Thing, along with novel concepts like 'The 5th Amendment', 'Due Process', and 'Innocent until proven guilty'.
      None of these developments changed the basic nature of the Cop Mindset, though; they still by large and far are

  • The FBI doesn't do a very good job. They have a long history of corruption, of lies, and being untrustworthy. They don't catch criminals very often. The only good they do is provide support for local law enforcement, for example the national finger-print data base.

    I therefore suggest the FBI be dissolved, or modified to the "National Police Support Unit." They can provide services to local police forces, but they don't need to be out harassing people on their own.
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @11:04PM (#56656878)

      The FBI doesn't do a very good job. They have a long history of corruption, of lies, and being untrustworthy.

      You left out "incompetent". I once worked with the FBI's "high tech task force" for several weeks, and the most competent guy on the team had been a history major. His only advantage over the rest of the team was that he knew he was an idiot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Their list of fuck ups is pretty long. Waco, Ruby Ridge, 9/11, oh and the valentines day school shooter where people called the FBI and told them who was going to do it. All the tips apparently go into the trash. I'd clean house there if I were Trump.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'd clean house there if I were Trump.

        Perhaps he should include himself in this housecleaning. Anyone who thinks Trump is honest and law-abiding needs to have their head examined.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I'd clean house there if I were Trump.

          Perhaps he should include himself in this housecleaning. Anyone who thinks Trump is honest and law-abiding needs to have their head examined.

          And that's where you're repeating the mistakes of the Republicans who went after Bill Clinton for being a sleazy, lying womanizer.

          Everyone already knew Clinton was a sleazy, lying womanizer and he won with that already baked-in by the voters.

          Everybody already knows Trump is a corrupt, obnoxious blowhard - and they still preferred him over Crooked Hillary! despite the media doing all they could to help her (and her vagina - never forget, Crooked Hillary! has a vagina and that's why you need to vote for her!)

          • by Anonymous Coward

            "a sleazy, lying womanizer."

            Actually, it was for committing PERJURY. Remember how he was disbarred etc because of it? Missed that part in history?

            Of course, perjury to Congress is nothing, ask Clapper. (And ask just about everyone who has testified before Congress for the last century - only a handful that obviously committed perjury got indicted.)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, here in the Twin Cities area they do a pretty good job of putting the high-money white-collar criminals in jail for fraud. (See also: Tom Petters and Denny Hecker.)

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno-co.oLISPrg minus language> on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:32PM (#56656804) Homepage

    Even if their numbers were true, it wouldn't change the fact that government mandated backdoors to encryption is a remarkably stupid and short sighted concept.

    Hell, all investigations could grind to a halt tomorrow because of encryption, and it wouldn't change that equation. The quantity is irrelevant.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Even if their numbers were true, it wouldn't change the fact that government mandated backdoors to encryption is a remarkably stupid and short sighted concept.

      You have some redundancy there: "government" pretty much implies "remarkably stupid and short sighted".

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think of in the way the USA and GCHQ view encryption in the media.
      The GCHQ wants to collect it all and without having to do much decryption in real time. So all trusted big brand encryption sold has to be junk and weak.
      Make sure nobody ever finds out and thats decades of effortless collection on every network and device.
      No reports to the police, not one story in the media, no politicians able to get told methods, no lawyers reading about methods.
      Just the clandestine and security services who use info
  • by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:33PM (#56656806)

    The Infamous Cop Math:

    A number of years ago I had a heroin case in Hayward. They had a warrant where the snitch, known, in polite terms, as a “confidential informant” with the obligatory history of reliability in past snitchings and who was a good citizen and such said there were two packages of heroin in a cereal box in my client’s kitchen. One weighed one pound and the other a half pound. Cops came in with a warrant and sure enough easily found the heroin and that’s what the packages weighed.

    Me: So officer did you wait until you got to the station to do the weighing or did you use the scale that was there and which is now in evidence.

    Cop: I used the scale there

    Me: but that’s an Ohaus scale isn’t it

    Cop: yes

    Me: and it is graded in grams isn’t it

    Cop: yes

    Me: so you did the math in your head right

    Cop: yes

    Me: so how many grams are in a half pound

    Cop: [absolute silence]

    me: let me help you out here. Let’s say there are about 28 grams in an ounce. So how many grams in a half pound

    Cop: [silence continues]

    Me: ok. Let’s make it easier. Let’s say there are 16 ounces in a pound. So how many grams in a half pound [more silence – but now the jury is laughing]

    Me: ok let me help you out a little more here. If a pound has 16 ounces how many ounces are in a half pound [more silence – juror yells out “8”. Jury laughs].

    Me: look if there are 28 grams in an ounce and juror number 3 helped you out by telling you there were 8 ounces in a half pound, how many grams were in what you tell us was a half pound. Now I walk up to the bench and snatch a yellow pad and pencil. “May I, your honor.” Here officer. Here is a pad and pencil. Now write down 28. Remember that’s one gram. Now you learned from juror number 3 that there are 8 oz in a half pound so you simply take 28 and multiply by 8. OK, what’s the number. [very long painful silence]. DA, who is now a judge and was an especially vicious DA, asks for a recess. He comes over to me but trips over his big box of files [now jury is in hysterics].

    By the way, my guy is on trial with his much younger cousin. Cousin is about to go to trial on a dead bang 4+ pound cocaine case. The DA says if they both take a year in county jail he’ll dump the cocaine case.

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:58PM (#56656858)

      good thing this wasn't in the UK.

      they weigh in 'stones' and pay in 'pounds'.

      • good thing this wasn't in the UK.

        they weigh in 'stones' and pay in 'pounds'.

        We only weigh people in stones because reasons.

    • What is the point of this? Does it really matter if the guy had a pound or 28 ounces or 16 ounces or 8 ounces? A dose of heroin is probably 10mg. The guy is a drug dealer either way.
      • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @11:27PM (#56656922)

        To make the cop look like a blithering idiot in front of a jury. Quantity matters as far as sentencing. Frankly, if someone is selling small quantities of heroin to adults, I'd hope they'd get the shortest sentence possible or walk free. The cost of jailing someone for a year pays for a lot of treatment for opiate addicts, which is where the money is more effectively spent.

        Many low-level dealers are themselves addicts and essentially victims who'd be better of getting medical treatment instead of being jailed.

        • The cost of jailing someone for a year pays for a lot of treatment for opiate addicts

          It also ensures that the Prison Industry has a 'little something' left over for their political benefactors.

      • What is the point of this? Does it really matter if the guy had a pound or 28 ounces or 16 ounces or 8 ounces? A dose of heroin is probably 10mg. The guy is a drug dealer either way.

        You missed the setup.

        The cop testified - as in, went on record saying, under oath, that there was half a pound of heroin in a cereal box. He said he knew it was half of a pound based on weighing it at the scene when the heroin was confiscated, and did not re-weigh it at the station. That scale weighed exclusively in metric measurements, so the police officer would have needed to be able to convert between measurements quickly in order to make that claim. The defense attorney then asks the police officer to do what he claimed he did at the scene of the crime. The officer, given a pencil and paper (unlikely to have been at his disposal during the arrest) then struggles to accurately perform the sort of arithmetic that is performed by third graders.

        Whether the defendant was dealing or not, the plaintiff is a police officer who either decided to guess at how much heroin was confiscated rather than write down what the scale said, or lied under oath. Either way, the defense attorney managed to make it basically impossible for the standard of "proof beyond reasonable doubt" to be met, so the only reason the guy ended up doing any jail time was based on familial loyalty rather than having been proven guilty.

        • It's okay. Law enforcers are allowed - and in fact encouraged - to lie under oath. How else are we gonna keep the Gulag full?

        • by dfghjk ( 711126 )

          "..and did not re-weigh it at the station. That scale weighed exclusively in metric measurements, so the police officer would have needed to be able to convert between measurements quickly in order to make that claim. The defense attorney then asks the police officer to do what he claimed he did at the scene of the crime."

          There was no claim that the cop didn't re-weigh at the station.

          There was no claim that the cop did a conversion at the scene of the crime.

          There is obviously a problem with the cop's testim

          • Lie in court once, pay the coinsequences: your testimony is no longer reliable.
          • by nasch ( 598556 )

            There was no claim that the cop did a conversion at the scene of the crime.

            "Me: so you did the math in your head right

            Cop: yes"

            Maybe you should go read it again... unless you really think the cop was testifying that he waited until later to do the math from the scale at the crime scene in his head. If that's what you think then I don't have anything else to say.

        • I don't think this is a particularly fair example, to be honest. It is perfectly fair that this cop simply used some obvious heuristics in determining the half-pound measure.

          I have a good idea in my head that half a kilogram (500g) is about a pound. I know it isn't exact, but for basic low level comparisons it works more or less OK. If the cop had a similar rough measure in his head then seeing a measurement of around 200 - 250g on the scale would ring in his mind as about half a pound, give or take. He did

          • I don't have any reason to defend a fictitious cop, but this seems like an example of the old "one should never attribute to malice that which can adequately be attributed to incompetence".

            Isn't that the point? Are you willing to bet your freedom or pass judgment on the freedom of another human being based upon the sworn testimony of an incompetent person gathering the evidence against him? That's the best case scenario. Worse case is outright falsification.

  • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:40PM (#56656820) Journal
    An inability to access the phone means nothing if prosecution was successful for other reasons. A more useful statistic would be how many phones do they have that couldn't be opened that were evidence in crimes that have not been successfully prosecuted. But, that is probably far, far beyond their math skills.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Even there, you have to deduct some to cover cases where the phone turns out to be no help.

    • Good point. Also they should focus on processing the 10,000 rape kit DNA samples that I heard was around the place.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The NSA has all the details. Its just not good to talk about what can be done in real time with easy decryption.
      So the FBI allows for some ambiguity to exist in the US media.
      The very newest cell phone is not a live mic. Its all too advanced and academically difficult.
      Please keep talking into the live mic.
      Keep the newest cell phone on at all times and don't think about the gps.
      Take lots of digital images too. The 4K video function is so creative too.
  • Mad skillz (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @10:56PM (#56656852)
    "We screwed up our program that simply counts the number of devices, but you can trust us to make super secure software to access the back doors, it would never have a problem that allowed improper access!"

    After the NSA exploit leaks I don't know how these Constitution-stomping tools don't get laughed out of the room when trying to claim their back door would be good-guys-only.
  • "The 21st century version would be a rule forbidding government regulation of encryption. A government that has no way of knowing what who is saying to whom lacks the most powerful weapons for winning an information war. " http://bit.ly/2IRKIZZ [bit.ly]
    • That's a dumb thing to say. Without the right to bear arms (and severa others) your right to encrypt is worse than meaningless — it's a red flag to anyone who suspects you to begin with.

      • by nasch ( 598556 )

        So you're saying law enforcement would just come in and arrest people for encrypting stuff if they were sure they didn't have a gun? Or something else? I've wondered about this argument that the second amendment protects the rest of them - how, exactly, do you use your second amendment rights to defend your other rights against government incursion?

        • So you're saying law enforcement would just come in and arrest people for encrypting stuff if they were sure they didn't have a gun? Or something else?

          That's literally how it works. Anyone they think they can push around, they do.

          how, exactly, do you use your second amendment rights to defend your other rights against government incursion?

          Not the way they did in Waco, that's for sure.

          • by nasch ( 598556 )

            That's literally how it works. Anyone they think they can push around, they do.

            And they don't push around gun owners?

            Not the way they did in Waco, that's for sure.

            Then how?

            • And they don't push around gun owners?

              Not if they know how to use the media [wikipedia.org].

              • by nasch ( 598556 )

                So is it really about the guns, or the media? And you know he got arrested later right? The charges were dismissed for reasons that had nothing to do with him waving his guns around.

              • by nasch ( 598556 )

                Also you haven't yet answered my other question, which I find more interesting: how, exactly, do you use your second amendment rights to defend your other rights against government incursion? This may come across as an attack but I really don't mean it that way. I've just never heard anything more in depth than a bumper sticker about this topic, and I'm wondering if someone can explain the reasoning to me.

                • So is it really about the guns, or the media? And you know he got arrested later right? The charges were dismissed for reasons that had nothing to do with him waving his guns around.

                  The charges got dismissed because otherwise there would have been a lot of other angry white men with guns up in arms about it.

                  Also you haven't yet answered my other question, which I find more interesting: how, exactly, do you use your second amendment rights to defend your other rights against government incursion?

                  It takes a mass of like-minded individuals standing "with" you. This is why the government was so desperate to prevent black people owning firearms that they instituted gun control laws when they started buying them in significant numbers. They didn't want black people to have the same power white people have.

                  • by nasch ( 598556 )

                    The charges got dismissed because otherwise there would have been a lot of other angry white men with guns up in arms about it.

                    I assume the judge did not make such a statement, and you're inferring the motivations. If so, it seems likely you are inferring them based on your worldview, rather than any evidence.

                    It takes a mass of like-minded individuals standing "with" you.

                    So there should be differences in government intrusiveness, oppression, civil rights violations, however you want to phrase it, according to the prevalence of gun ownership in different areas. Any idea if that is the case? Confounding variables could be an issue in any such evidence - have to control for things like income a

                    • I assume the judge did not make such a statement, and you're inferring the motivations. If so, it seems likely you are inferring them based on your worldview, rather than any evidence.

                      I'm basing them on reality [politicususa.com], rather than pretending that racial prejudice doesn't exist.

                      It takes a mass of like-minded individuals standing "with" you.

                      So there should be differences in government intrusiveness, oppression, civil rights violations, however you want to phrase it, according to the prevalence of gun ownership in different areas.

                      No. It's not primarily about geographical region. It has more to do with other demographics. There can be plenty of those violations, you have to look at who is being targeted in the first place. What color of person is most commonly subjected to stop-and-frisk, for example? That's a clear violation of constitutional rights, and we have to assume that there are more illicit items being illegally concealed by white people

                    • by nasch ( 598556 )

                      That article doesn't even cover his arrest, so I don't see how it can support your claim that the charges against Bundy were dropped out of fear of other people and their guns.

                      It has more to do with other demographics... In practice, you have only those rights which others are willing to help you defend.

                      I'm not sure I follow. You talk about racial disparities in policing, which is a fact. So are you saying this happens because black people don't own guns and white people do? Remember the question is whether guns are how our rights are defended. Your paragraph makes sense, but it doesn't seem to support that assertion. Rather wha

  • Even one (Score:2, Funny)

    Even one is too much. Do what it takes to keep us safe!
  • They consider that their job.

  • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @11:29PM (#56656928) Journal

    I believe it is possible with current technology to "read a mind" - perhaps not reliably, but enough of the time to make it useful. This would involve something like placing an individual in an fMRI machine, projecting images of people, things, symbols, etc. and observing the mind's reaction to them. I bet you could involuntarily extract a password this way - one symbol at a time. The opening of whatever vault the password protects would be your proof of its correctness so you wouldn't need to worry about misinterpretation.

    However, I think it should be obvious that this would represent a violation of a person's 5th amendment rights.

    A future scenario we need to start preparing for though is accessing an implanted memory device other than the individual's "brain". We are already interfacing chips to brains. I'd be surprised if some of those devices don't have memories, though perhaps they are all still external to the person with the interface chip. Regardless of whether they are internal or external, I believe those memories contained in a personal extension are also deserving of 5th amendment protection. You shouldn't be able to access my pacemaker to see if I had an elevated heart rate during the time of a crime without my explicit consent regardless of warrant.

    If we don't take this route of protecting personal electronic memories by the 5th amendment, a day will come when the 5th amendment is worthless.

    If we do protect them, we need to consider that, initially, implanted personal augmentations are going to be more available to the rich than the poor. Those that don't have the money will "continue" to augment their capabilities using external devices. They should not have lesser rights just because their augmentation is external.

    I say "continue" because that is exactly what my smartphone is to me today. It is a personal augmentation. I have an atrocious memory. Instead of trying to keep my calendar, appointments, reminders, personal communications, etc. in my head, they are in my phone's store which in many cases is extended to the cloud.

    Regardless of where those memories physically reside, they are my memories and nowhere near as "readable" as a piece of paper in a filing cabinet. In fact, the tech necessary to read and access the memories from the chips is much closer to that of the tech necessary to read my biological memory without my permission than the tech necessary to read a piece of paper.

    In short, I believe the law has erred in comparing smartphone memories to filing cabinets to find precedent. They should have compared them to the memory in our brains and considered their contents to be under 5th amendment protection. They should not be legally accessible, much less admissible, without my permission - even if unencrypted - unless I say so, not some judge. We need to do some backtracking and fix it now or face a future where users of augmentation tech - eventually everyone - give up their 5th amendment rights.

    • Technology is nowhere near the level where we could extract any password that wasn't ridiculously terrible like 'dog'; and even if they lit up to a picture of a dog, 'DoG', 'Dog!', 'Sir Barksalot' would still have it beat. Heck, fMRI lie detection is even simpler but has been shown to be fairly unreliable as well. So unreliable that it's been excluded from court under the Daubert test, and that bar is so low they allow "expert" gender studies professors to tell juries that every single inconsistency and in
    • I bet you could involuntarily extract a password this way - one symbol at a time.

      I honestly don't most of my internet passwords and certainly not my encryption passwords. They are generated on demand by an algorithm. One step removed. I know how to generate them but not what they are.

      In case anyone is wondering why I went to the trouble, it's because I don't care what the passwords are, only what they do (control access to information). I don't need to memorize passwords, and it was fun and easy to code.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      Once you put your thoughts on an external device, they're "papers" and fall under the 4th Amendment, not the 5th. It's not a very long clause. In fact, it's quite short for a legal document.

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to

      • The idea that these are "papers" is exactly what I think we should rethink. Initially, yes, they followed that model. But, the model of what they store and how they connect into our lives is changing. We are already connecting devices into our nervous system. We could never do that with papers and gain any usefulness from it. They are becoming personal augmentations. We need to realize that even the human brain is just a device and expand to allow both device upgrades within the body and some device periphe
  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2018 @02:02AM (#56657278)

    Problem is not the numbers, it's the narrative itself.
    They are effectively saying that they can't do anything, like say regular investigation jobs, if they don't have encryption to backdoors, which would effectively ease up their work on one end while exponentially raising the potential for other types of crimes like identity theft, blackmail, exploitation, stealing of corporate secrets, hacking, and whatnot.
    The numbers don't matter. The stupidity of breaking encryption for an entire country does.

  • How many criminals were unable to be caught/prosecuted/charged as a result of law enforcement not having access to an encrypted device? (I suspect the 1000-2000 figure quoted includes a bunch of investigations where they weren't able to get into the encrypted device but were able to find another way to secure an arrest or conviction)

  • The Scary Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2018 @04:02AM (#56657586)
    Do I remotely believe the FBI narrative with respect to encryption? No.

    Do I think that the current administration will seize on this reporting [despite the current President's absolute loathing for the Post and its owner] and use it as another weapon to undermine the credibility of the FBI in the eyes of the public? Yes, absolutely.

    Whether we're willing to acknowledge it or not, we need the FBI. The FBI was, when it was introuduced, [IIUC] the only agency with the authority to pursue a crime [and criminals] across state borders. Unfortunately, what has happened since then has been the gradual "bloating" of all government agencies, with departments fighting each-other for larger budgets and more status. When the DHS was introduced, the Executive started a turf war that continues to this day - and in one sense this whole "unbreakable encryption" debacle is just a part of that - because the best thing that the FBI can do to underscore it's value is to actually solve crimes, so within the FBI there will inevitably be a narrative which says, "anything which prevents us or delays us from solving crimes will make us look bad and must therefore be destroyed..."

    So the thing which is pushing the FBI to wage their war on encryption likely has far less to do with "organised crime, paedophiles and terrorists" and everything to do with, "making us look like a better agency than the DHS thanks to our conviction rates."

    I should caution us here, however, from thinking that, "Well, stuff them, this clearly isn't our problem..." It is. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most important one to me is that the concept of "demonstrating ability via some grade-school metrics", which has permeated every workplace, now drives people [including FBI Agents and Directors] to make questionable decisions. One of the most horrific examples of this was U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who insists to this day that her office acted "appropriately and reasonably" when bringing charges against Aaron Swartz. In that case, even though Aaron had a legal right to the documents he was obtaining, even though the owner of the documents looked at the facts and withdrew their complaint, Ortiz pressed ahead. The ruthless pressure that drove Ortiz to get a conviction cost Aaron his life. That is NOT ok.

    Ortiz has continued to spin a narrative that Aaron was offered a plea deal (which he rejected because it would have prevented him for running for public office, which he most dearly wanted to do) whilst conveniently forgetting the mandacious way they went about building their case, the way that they destroyed not just Aaron but Quinn Norton too.

    This is the problem.

    We need the FBI.

    But we need them to act with honesty, integrity and candor at all times. By failing to do this, they undermine not just their credibility, but the support of the public at the time when they most desperately need it, in the face of an Executive that is clearly determined to either destroy them, or bend them to his will...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Recent FBI...

      Clinton email investigation (don't care if she goes to jail or not, just commenting on FBI behavior). Comey decided to become the DOJ prosecutor, without being giving authority by anyone, listed all of Clinton's crimes and then as self-appointed prosecutor decided she was not guilty after he also self-admittedly rewrote the laws involved without consulting Congress, Judicial branch, or DOJ. His reopening the case 2 weeks before the election was probably worse.

      Trump Russia investigation... Th

      • by ytene ( 4376651 )
        "All this has gone on, not a single person charged with anything. "

        Are we discussing the same thing? If we're talking about the Mueller Investigation, then multiple people have been charged - and multiple people have already pled guilty.

        1) George Papadopoulos, admitted guilt.
        2) Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, admitted guilt.

        3) Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, was indicted in October in Washington, DC on charges of conspiracy, money laundering, false s

    • Whether we're willing to acknowledge it or not, we need the FBI.

      We need them to act with integrity, and if they can't do that, then the cure is worse than the disease.

      • by ytene ( 4376651 )
        On that, we absolutely agree.

        For what it's worth, I'm personally deeply sceptical of the FBI... Far too many examples of fabrications, lies, mis-representation of facts. For example, the San Bernadino iPhone debacle... That's why I offer the thought that perhaps they have lost their way. They are either "cloak-and-boots" brigade [looking to jump in like superheroes and save the day], or they are doing this for self-aggrandisement, to drum up bigger budgets and larger departments and larger salaries.

        I
    • The FBI was, when it was introuduced, [IIUC] the only agency with the authority to pursue a crime [and criminals] across state borders.

      I've seen the importance of this first hand. A few years back, my identity was stolen and a credit card was opened in my name. Due to dumb luck, the card arrived at my house instead of being routed to the address of the identity thief. The local police began investigating but I was quickly told that it likely wouldn't go anywhere because "chances are they're in another state

      • by ytene ( 4376651 )
        And your experience is, in essence, the *really* important point here. The FBI face several problems, one of their own making:-

        1. They are being treated like grade-schoolers, and given scores and metrics and told they must compete with other agencies...
        2. Part of the reason for 1., above, is because they are also now in a turf war with other agencies, such as the DHS. Lines are blurred, it isn't clear who has jurisdiction over what any more.
        3. The introduction of these turf wars and competition for bud
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The FBI lies about everything, but about Trump they're right?

    The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones...

    But damn, when the FBI says Trump colluded with Russia based on evidence paid for by the DNC, we're supposed to believe them?

  • Next thing you'll tell me is that the FBI lied to multiple FISA judges in order to spy on a political candidate by failing to disclose the source of a salacious steele dossier that was funded by a political opposition research firm who was paid by a lawfirm retained by another political party. Oh wait, they do that too.

    Its time that the FBI stop being the 'untouchables' that Hoover created and start being more transparent with a _whole_ lot more oversight. As a libertarian, its my belief that its better to

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