Earlier this year, the FBI and Apple squabbled in court over the fed's request for help breaking into the iPhone of an alleged terrorist who killed 14 people in a shooting in December of 2015. The case became the most public battle in the FBI's ongoing war on encryption, a problem that the FBI calls "Going Dark."The fed's argument is that unbreakable encryption is stumping criminal investigations, making them harder,if not impossible, to sometimes access important evidence on a suspect or a victim's phone or computer.
In 2016, the FBI has encountered passwords or passcodes in 2,095 out of 6,814 (31 percent) mobile devices analyzed by its forensic labs
The numbers disclosed by Baker on Friday, which have never been published before, seem to indicate that the reality, however, is a little different."These numbers demonstrate that even with encryption turned on by default on all newer iPhones and some Android phones, it is posing a problem in a relatively small number of cases—while that same encryption is presumably preventing a wide range of crimes," Kevin Bankston, the director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, who was at the meeting, told Motherboard in an online chat.
Read more: We're Winning The Crypto Wars
An FBI spokesperson could not confirm nor deny the numbers as today was a national holiday."885 or 886 devices the FBI was not able to access in [Fiscal Year 2016] does sound about right," the spokesperson said in an email. "I would suggest that is hardly an insignificant number."In any case. There are some caveats to be made here. According to what Baker said, those are the devices sent to the FBI's computer analysis response teams (CASRs) and regional computer forensic laboratories (RCFLs) by state and local cops, or federal investigators. They do not include devices that local and state cops were able to deal with on their own.The numbers apparently included both cellphones and laptops, and it's unclear if the 885 or 886 figure includes damaged devices as well.As surveillance expert and blogger Marcy Wheeler noted, the FBI's claims that it can't get into 13% of phones is "bogus" and is a "false claim about encryption," as these numbers aren't just about crypto.Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.
"Even with encryption turned on by default on all newer iPhones and some Android phones, it is posing a problem in a relatively small number of cases."