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FBI reportedly overestimated inaccessible encrypted phones by thousands

The FBI seems to have been caught fibbing again on the topic of encrypted phones. FBI director Christopher Wray estimated in December that it had almost 7,800 phones from 2017 alone that investigators were unable to access. The real number is likely less than a quarter of that, The Washington Post reports.

Internal records cited by sources put the actual number of encrypted phones at perhaps 1,200 but perhaps as many as 2,000, and the FBI told the paper in a statement that “initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported.” Supposedly having three databases tracking the phones led to devices being counted multiple times.

Such a mistake would be so elementary that it’s hard to conceive of how it would be possible. These aren’t court notes, memos or unimportant random pieces of evidence, they’re physical devices with serial numbers and names attached. The idea that no one thought to check for duplicates before giving a number to the director for testimony in Congress suggests either conspiracy or gross incompetence.

The latter seems more likely after a report by the Office of the Inspector General that found the FBI had failed to utilize its own resources to access locked phones, instead suing Apple and then hastily withdrawing the case when its basis (a locked phone from a terror attack) was removed. It seems to have chosen to downplay or ignore its own capabilities in order to pursue the narrative that widespread encryption is dangerous without a backdoor for law enforcement.

An audit is underway at the Bureau to figure out just how many phones it actually has that it can’t access, and hopefully how this all happened.

It is unmistakably among the FBI’s goals to emphasize the problem of devices being fully encrypted and inaccessible to authorities, a trend known as “going dark.” That much it has said publicly, and it is a serious problem for law enforcement. But it seems equally unmistakable that the Bureau is happy to be sloppy, deceptive or both in its advancement of a tailored narrative.

Box that unlocks iPhones is the hottest new gadget for police

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Law enforcement agencies — despite protests from privacy advocates — have long lobbied to get access to your smartphone.

Now a mysterious U.S. startup called Grayshift — which reportedly has an ex-Apple security engineer on staff — is providing iPhone unlocking tools to cops, according to Motherboard.

GrayKey is a box that measures four by four inches wide, and features two Lightning cables at the front, as per a post by security software company Malwarebytes. 

According to Forbes, Grayshift claims the device only works with iOS 10 and 11, with iOS 9 compatibility slated for the future. Devices ranging from the iPhone X to the 6 are supported, as are various iPad models. Read more…

More about Apple, Iphone, Cybersecurity, Fbi, and Law Enforcement

Stephen Colbert has a brilliant explanation of why Donald Trump fired James Comey

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The big news everyone is talking about is Donald Trump firing FBI director James Comey. 

It happened just 10 minutes before Stephen Colbert taped The Late Show, but the late night host had plenty of rounds to fire. 

“That shows no gratitude at all. Did Trump forget about the Hillary emails that Comey talked about?” Colbert said. 

Trump said in a letter that Comey was “not able to effectively lead the Bureau” after the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but Colbert thinks he has a more plausible explanation. 

“I think he was fired because Comey couldn’t guess the name Rumpelstiltskin,” he joked. Read more…

More about Donald Trump, Fbi, Stephen Colbert, James Comey, and Fbi Director

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The FBI’s new online FOIA portal is now live

Fbi_headquarters It’s March, and beyond seasonal allergies and college basketball, that means the FBI’s controversial changes to its FOIA request system are now fully implemented. For reporters and government transparency advocates, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an essential tool. Enacted in 1966, the act requires the government to provide answers to specific requests for information,… Read More

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