back to article FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones

FBI director James Comey is continuing his charm offensive against phone encryption – by urging tech giants to do more to help the agency monitor people. In a speech to the Brookings Institute, Comey said the decision by Apple and Google to turn on file encryption by default in iOS and Android was seriously hampering the …

  1. Anomalous Cowturd
    Holmes

    Call this bloke a Waaaambulance!

    Sheesh.

    Just get a warrant you arsehole.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call this bloke a Waaaambulance!

      Hoover never bothered with such formalities.

      And his empire never really changed after his departure.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Call this bloke a Waaaambulance!

        Sure it did. After his departure, his former victims, those pretending to lead the nation, decided to proclaim in quiet whispers, how cross dressing.

        Something strangely absent from the real history, but is still repeated in public venues by the ill informed.

        Hoover also had the first "legal" house of prostitution build in Washington, D. C.. Interestingly enough, the classified files mention all manner of state of the art recording devices. Granted, at the earliest times, it was all vacuum tube stuff, but cameras, microphones and whatever recording media that was reliable was built in or added onto the system.

        Can't figure out *how* he escaped the wrath of a nation after the collapse of McCarthy.

        Hoover had two interests. Building his surveillance capabilities and protecting that former requirement.

        As one who does actually trust my own government a bit, which is far more than far too many do, I offer a counter-offer.

        I'll give you my root keys if you give me the root keys of the *entire* US Government. I have a rather thick jacket, so it's well established that I can be trusted. A *lot* of people trust me.

        I'll also not divulge unless lawful acts do occur, which will be vetted by *my* cleared attorney.

        Otherwise, sod off. The Founding Fathers are spinning around in their graves and may erupt at any moment to provide a *real* zombie uprising against you pencil necked idiots.

        Me, "The Wizard", later, "Wizard One Actual". The latter not being a sign that I was a Commissioned Officer, but a adulation of an occasional habit of overruling a Commissioned Officer's orders in favor of something that both accomplished the mission and we also managed to survive.

        As it always worked, it was swept under the rug.

        I'm retired, but do retain my clearance. I'm also tagged RED. So, if we meet, *please* do not pull my finger. ;)

        Blithering idiots.

        And yeah, that all is true and more. But, if I told you, I'd have to kill you and eat you or something.

        The *real* secret is one that is really well known, but, Intelligence isn't noted for being exceptionally bright at times.

        *Do not pull my finger*.

        I'm an WMD in that manner. ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can't figure out *how* he escaped the wrath of a nation after the collapse of McCarthy.

          He knew where the bodies were buried.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's the NEW WORLD ORDER so do what I say.

      1. Thorne

        How can you say you want a legal front door and full co-operation with tech companies when you're slurping all data with no legal grounds from said companies with and without their knowledge, then using secret courts to gag them afterwards should they find out?

        Yes you can force them to co-operate and then force them to shut up about it afterwards so the only option is for them to make their systems secure against even themselves so they can't co-operate even if they wanted to.

        The government has made this rod for their own backs.........

        1. dan1980

          @Thorne

          Unfortunately, they have a solution - make possession of rods illegal.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't it frighten you that someone is his position actually verbalises these kind of thoughts?

      Anyone else would be sectioned.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Big Brother

        "Doesn't it frighten you that someone is his position actually verbalises these kind of thoughts?"

        Oh, yes <shivers>

        Oddly, I just read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. An interesting scenario and despite apparently being aimed at teens, makes some good points. Especially in the afterwards. It's free to download under a Creative Commons Licence.

        I must admit to smiling sardonically at the ironic concept of hacked XBoxes running linux to build a darknet to combat the DHS :-)

  2. Vector

    "I've never been someone who is a scaremonger..."

    ...but, in this case, he'll be happy to make an exception.

    I wonder if it has ever occurred to him that even if Apple and Google didn't put encryption into their systems, it wouldn't stop criminals from puttting it in themselves?

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: "I've never been someone who is a scaremonger..."

      He might not be - but too many people like him have called 'wolf' too many times - we no longer believe them.

  3. intrigid

    What a fuckbag

    Fuck a fuckload of fucks you fucking fuck fuck!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a fuckbag

      My sentiments, exactly.

    2. SundogUK

      Re: What a fuckbag

      Eloquently put. Have an up-vote.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: What a fuckbag

        Eloquently put. Have an up-vote.

        Add one from me also.

    3. Pirate Dave Silver badge

      Re: What a fuckbag

      Fuck yeah!!! Have an upvote.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Nope

    Shit like Customs being able to take your phone/laptop within 300 miles of the US border w/o any reason whatsoever makes me say "F*ck you, James. With a corn cob"

    "We are completely comfortable with court orders and legal process" - We just ignore them.

    Ask Mr. Comey about what a stingray is, and their lying to the courts about it, and watch him shut up tighter than a nun's butt.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Nope

      "Shit like Customs being able to take your phone/laptop within 300 miles of the US border w/o any reason whatsoever makes me say "F*ck you, James. With a corn cob""

      Australia has changed the laws to allow customs to search laptops/phones for porn. So now they can search any electronic device for whatever they like under the guise of looking for porn. If your device is password protected, you have to hand over the password. Not sure what happens if you tell them to bugger off.

      1. GrumpyOldBloke

        Re: Nope

        These are the preliminary steps of the cross border copyright / IP enforcement regime under the guise of keeping us safe. Still, it wouldn't be Australia if we didn't bend over backwards in our efforts to bend over forwards.

      2. paulc
        Trollface

        Re: Nope

        that's what my password will be... "8uGg3r~0ff"

        actually fulfills the requirements of my company's password scheme...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nope

        "Australia has changed the laws to allow customs to search laptops/phones for porn. So now they can search any electronic device for whatever they like under the guise of looking for porn. If your device is password protected, you have to hand over the password. Not sure what happens if you tell them to bugger off."

        Just use Truecrypt with a hidden partition. Those idiots couldn't find their arsehole with both hands and a SES search party. I came back through with a laptop and three external drives at one stage. Encrypted in case of loss but nothing dodgey on them. Nobody batted an eyelid. Surely a guy travelling alone with 3 external drives holding multiple terabytes of data (albeit they were by and large mirrors) constitutes something worth a look? Nope, not interested. Hence just go with Truecrypt and hidden partitions if you're that bothered. Certainly wouldn't advise refusing - these aren't smart people and revenge in court might not outweigh the inconvenience. Could change your password to GoFuckYourself before travelling though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nope

          I thought about that and then thought what if you run into someone who really IS savvy enough to think, "Maybe this encrypted partition is a front." So I came up with another idea. Make the drives look smaller than they really are. Partition say 20-25% of your space as an innocuous unencrypted partition with home movies or whatever. Then conceal the good stuff in the second partition, which you can set so your system doesn't give it a drive letter. That way, when it's plugged in, it looks like a perfectly ordinary external hard drive. Programs like TrueCrypt and DiskCryptor can see the partition table and locate the unlettered partition which means you can still mount it when you're alone.

        2. Thorne

          Re: Nope

          "Surely a guy travelling alone with 3 external drives holding multiple terabytes of data (albeit they were by and large mirrors) constitutes something worth a look? Nope, not interested."

          Were you wearing a turban?

          I suspect racial profiling is alive and well and may have more to do with your situation.

  5. Sebastian A

    When you treat everyone like criminals...

    They may respond by behaving like criminals.

    1. choleric

      Re: When you treat everyone like criminals...

      Someone once said that people aren't made for the law, the law is made for people. Seems the public debate is missing that point at the moment.

  6. swschrad

    When we can read your files, you can read ours

    it's just that simple, Director.

  7. Gannon (J.) Dick

    When you treat everyone like criminals...

    They may respond by behaving like criminals.

    ----------------------------------

    Why yes.

    Don't make gadget security a crime, make crime a crime.

    And when you give those in Public Service access to insider information on demand then what would be treason after their service is simply a cosmetic for greed and thin ethical protection from the hangman.

    The availability of lucrative second careers for former adjuncts to the Civil Service concerns me not.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    Are we approaching the Godwin point?

    Seriously, how far does all this have to go before we realize we've become good little.....

    1. dan1980

      Re: Are we approaching the Godwin point?

      @ecofreco

      Something, something Reichstag fire?

  9. Cipher
    FAIL

    Comey:

    Doubtless you're getting an executive summary of this and other internet discussions of your bullshit.

    You *are* scare mongering in your quest for a totalitarian state. Phone taps solved ONE kidnapping?

    Now there's justification for massive data slurping...

    And by the way, how did those Boston Bombers slip right past you, even with advance warning? What? They didn't discuss their plans on the phone?

    You sir are either an idiot or a New World Order thug...

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: Comey:

      "Phone taps solved ONE kidnapping?"

      I think what they actually said was only 1 of the 3576 warrants was in relation to a kidnapping case.

      They never said the data they demanded actually helped them solve the case...

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Comey:

      "You sir are either an idiot or a New World Order thug...". Or just marketing Apple and Google. See what happend to me when I read too many conspiracy theories.

    3. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Comey:

      You sir are either an fucking idiot or a New World Order thug...

      FTFY

  10. K Silver badge

    "was seriously hampering the efforts of cops"

    Amazing, intention to encrypt by default was only recently announced, its not even present in 99% of android and older devices.. and its hampering efforts!

    Aha, yeah, aha, hmmmm, aha... no actually I stopped listening when you started talking sh*t!

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: "was seriously hampering the efforts of cops"

      Encryption capability superior to Apple's pre iOS8 has been baked into Android releases for about the last three years. Default activation has not, but we may reasonably think that anyone who thought they had a need activated it, yet life has gone on. Law enforcement officials seem to think all criminals are so stupid that they need Apple and Google to protect them.

  11. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Fair Exchange

    ...unless such front-door access was granted to the Feds then "homicide cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free, and child exploitation might not be discovered or prosecuted." He also warned terrorists could use social media to "recruit, plan, and execute an attack...

    Yeah? Even if I believed that, I'd think it a cheap price to pay to keep the FBI out of my phone...

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    The fear is strong in this one

    A control freak's fear of losing that control.

  13. SmarchComments

    Pencils

    We should outlaw pencils. Criminals keep using the eraser.

    Also, we should outlaw talking without recording yourself for possible law enforcement use.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Pencils

      And clothes - people can use them to conceal weapons.

      If you have nothing to hide - you have nothing to fear

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Pencils

        "And clothes - people can use them to conceal weapons."

        Forget clothes. At this stage, we'll have to ban the human body. Recall that a few years ago someone managed to hide and detonate a bomb concealed...let's just say where the sun don't shine.

        Let's face it. We're almost to the point where one person can ruin the world. Which means no government will trust its citizens since just one could be the one that destroys them. The operative phrase is rapidly becoming, "Don't trust anyone."

    2. captain veg

      Re: Pencils

      > Also, we should outlaw talking without recording yourself for possible law enforcement use.

      Especially talking furrin.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_talker

      -A.

  14. Tom 35 Silver badge

    I've never been someone who is a scaremonger.

    Ha ha ha, good one. Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He seems rather keen on avoiding lying in the bed that the triple-letter agencies have made...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Uh.... he's the head of a triple letter agency.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes he is...

        That's kind of, sort of, my point...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Founding fathers?

    Open constitution with open laws from an open legislature and open executive orders to be adjudicated in open courts that issue open warrants based on open evidence. That's what the Founding Fathers declared for the world to see and put their lives and sacred honor on the table for stakes on one hell of a gamble. These worms want every instance of open replaced with secret. No.

    No promises here. No threats from me. Just a note. Putting on the uniform, no matter what the capacity, is putting down some table stakes in this "game."

    Ta. I have some work to do.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Founding fathers?

      Four words: Ink On A Page...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Founding fathers?

      The founding fathers were also in favor of slaves.

      The current set of 3 letter agencies have merely extended the opportunity to people of all skin colors

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Founding fathers?

        On average, the founding fathers opposed slavery, but to get agreement on the Constitution pinched their noses and signed off on the 3/5 rule and prohibition until 1808 of laws forbidding slave importation. You may think that cowardly or immoral, but it is not clear that slavery in the middle part of North America would have ended as early as 1865 if there had been two nations instead of one.

        The same founding fathers, by the way, also insisted on the Bill of Rights as a deferred condition.

      2. shovelDriver

        Re: Founding fathers?

        The surviving records document, thoroughly, that the Founding Fathers were for the most part not in favor of slavery. Transcripts and Letters exist which show that slavery was not prohibited in the Constitution because the majority had to compromise with the slavers in order to form the Union and get state reps to sign off on the agreement. Those who demanded compromise were almost every one from northern states.

        Go on, look it up! Stop repeating things without first verifying them yourself.

        And you might also find that the Southern states were prepared to phase out slavery, but several northern states did not agree. Just as Lincoln refused to end slavery until it became politically needful for his party's survival. He said - the record exists - that he would not choose to end slavery unless forced to that decision. Then, after the War to Prevent Legal Secession was over, you will find that it was the northern interests - those now identified as Democrats - who started and maintained the Ku Klux Klan.

        Yes, all that is true. Documents, verified as authentic, exist in the national archives, and are available for public access. Unfortunately, those who would search have to learn how to think first . . .

    3. Grikath

      Re: Founding fathers?

      well, with all their pro's and cons as seen from a modern point of view, they sure would have had a very simple answer for people who wanted to snoop into their yards whenever they pleased..

      Oh wait.. they did...

  17. Christoph Silver badge

    Encrypted phones? That's nothing

    Does he realise that it is still possible in the USA to buy a house that does not have a telescreen fitted in every room? Something must be done to protect the children!

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge
    WTF?

    "We need to fix this problem. It is long past time."

    What? I thought Apple and Google only announced full device encryption last month.

    You can still get a warrant then go to the network, social media, and cloudy backup providers. What more do you need?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We need to fix this problem. It is long past time."

      Teri things: a conscience and an English dictionary.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: "We need to fix this problem. It is long past time."

      !984 was a story not a promise and you are doing quite well.

  19. wolfetone Silver badge

    I'm so glad I live in the UK and not the USA, I'd hate for an agency to want to spy on it's own people.

    Oh... shit.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this

    Is this the same as requiring all snail mail to be sent to the FBI, read, and then passed on to the recipient?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this

      I thought all mail was passed through an x-ray machine so that it could be read without having to be opened and resealed.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Is this

        The last I heard, all first class snail mail was photographed to obtain the metadata.

        I am skeptical, though, about the implied proposition that X-ray would produce a useful image of a letter's contents.

  21. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    CALEA

    Need security holes built in to gadgets? Buy Chinese stuff. I hear they have been more than willing to comply.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: CALEA

      Alas, that accusation carried much more weight before we discovered America doing exactly that...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    only one left

    Do you think he'll have a coronary when Microsoft announced default encryption for Windows?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: only one left

      We can only dream.

  23. Gambler

    Look and say AAAHHH!

    This Comey copper wantsto get in the front door of every smartphone. I say a loud NO! I am not a criminal and nor will I be treated like one because I own an IPhone or Andriod phone. If he wants to look into the history of my phone get a legally obtained search warrant; then he can see ALL of my information devices right down to my cereal boxes in my pantry, but watch out for those burner passwords I have installed on all my computers. Try to bypass and watch the device go up in digital flames. There was a movie a few years back called "sneakers" that showed the power of this kind of control( for a person in law enforcement this is a wet dream). These kind of people want put the Bill of Rights in an office shredder and burn the shreds. They fear the common man because they know they do not hold the power and will engineer any lengths to get the power. Do you really wanting them to know what brand of toothpaste you use or worse, what your wife wore to bed last night? They want to live through our devices like perverts with a badge and then use it in a court of law to convict you based upon a prosecuters twisted words. JUST SAY NO AND KEEP YOUR FREEDOM! DENY EVEN THE BEGININGS OF TYRANNY!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Look and say AAAHHH!

      I think you are a tad late. The tyranny has already begun. It got large after 9-11. It was fully in place in the US during the Vietnam war. McCarthy was a major player in the 50's. It even goes back further to the union busting days and even the Bonus Army was infiltrated and spied upon.

      Power is power is power and those who have it want more. The technology of today has only made it easier. But it's nothing new.

    2. dan1980

      Re: Look and say AAAHHH!

      @Gambler

      And what happens when our governments legislate to band encryption on phones, or indeed anything?

    3. Allan 1

      Re: Look and say AAAHHH!

      'Burner passwords' would probably leave you open to a charge of wilful destruction of evidence, sadly.

  24. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What exactly is the front-door of a phone anyway?

    What exactly is the 'front-door' in phone terms? Is he expecting to be able to enter 911-911 as the PIN and get full access?

    1. dan1980

      Re: What exactly is the front-door of a phone anyway?

      @2+2=5

      I think the idea is that, just as 'hacking' the phones would be considered the 'back door', legitimate access (whatever that amounts to) is the 'front door'.

      If we can keep the snickering to a minimum, one goes in the back door to escape notice. The analogy more-or-less work because once you find you've been broken into, you tend to make sure everything is locked-up tight

  25. Mitoo Bobsworth

    Let's play "Finish That Sentence."

    "I've never been someone who is a scaremonger ..."

    ... but now seems as good a time as any!

    1. Thorne

      Re: Let's play "Finish That Sentence."

      "I've never been someone who is a scaremonger ..."

      But peer pressure made me.......

  26. zen1

    not only no but hell no! I'm tired of my gubment taking the liberty of bypassing my liberties, just because it's inconvenient for them. I'm sorry but this "it's for the children.." crap is not a reasonable argument anymore, as before you know it this could get abused to the point of monitor people who've committed the heinous act of running a stop light or crossing the street illegally.

    Stop spying on us, assholes!

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      RE: Stop spying on us, assholes!

      ... before you know it this could get abused to the point of monitor people who've committed the heinous act of running a stop light ...

      I guess then you have never heard of RED LIGHT CAMERAS?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_light_camera

  27. Infernoz Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Just Crocodile Tears from increasingly visible government gangsters

    Some government is probably OK, to keep the peace and ensure honest trade, but it has gone far beyond that now into quite obvious gangsterism *, so these f'tard corpocracy enforcers should STFU and accept that people no longer trust them, so are locking them out!

    * As amusingly illustrated on the Santiago Capital "Stockholm Syndrome" video on Real Vision Television on the internet.

    I've also discovered the "Log Horizon" Anime series, and it looks like an interesting model for how limited government could work.

  28. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    So...FBI wants extra powers then

    So, the FBI boss compares wanting to read any and all correspondence on your device at any time, with being able to tap phones with a warrant. Nothing has been lost then, the FBI is still permitted to tap phone calls with a warrant. This is in fact the FBI wanting extra powers (with a warrant or not) that they currently don't have.

    Plus, of course, backdooring people's phones is madness from a security perspective.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: So...FBI wants extra powers then

      The FBI boss said nothing to indicate a wish "to read any and all correspondence on your device at any time".

      He expressed a wish to be able to do that with a search warrant, issued by a court based on a showing of probable cause to think the phone contains usable evidence of a crime.

      As stated, providing a back door is madness and was rejected in principle over twenty years ago.

      And, unfortunately for the FBI and others, government resistant encryption has been widely available for use by those with moderate technical knowledge and expertise for over two decades (email and computer files), built in and easy to activate for three years or so on Android devices, and is available as a default for Apple portable devices beginning with iOS8.

  29. dan1980

    The response is so obvious and many have said it before - if you and all your buddies* had kept to the fucking rules and respected everyone's privacy in the first place, you wouldn't have this problem.

    * - As per a previous post, I suspect the FBI are less problematic that some others - like the NSA but there is NO doubt whatsoever that they have accessed data they shouldn't have without correct due process, either directly, through a request to another agency or through information being passed to them.

    There is always talk about 'inter-agency cooperation' and 'information sharing' as if this is a good thing. I contend that it is not. You see, the NSA were given a certain set of powers based on the type of threat they are supposedly combating. The FBI are given another set of powers based on their job and the DEA are given their own set. The idea that the NSA can gather information under the remit of their purpose and then pass that on to agencies who would not be able to access it themselves should be (and evidently is) outrageous to people

  30. DryBones
    Pint

    Ah, consensus...

    It appear that every single post in this thread is some flavor of "fuck off".

    I'll go with "sod off, you big girl's blouse!"

    1. DryBones

      Also!

      I'm not sure about anyone else, but the more I hear this sort of thing from them, the more I think "Good" and look for more things I can encrypt. Because obviously they need for their base level of difficulty to be a lot higher to make them focus their resources where they're actually needed, instead of getting into everything just because they can.

      Anybody else thinking "Streisand Effect"?

  31. Carbon life unit 5,232,556

    Shades of jude Death

    Why not go the whole hog?

    1. Carbon life unit 5,232,556

      Re: Shades of jude Death

      Damm you autocorrect!

      Judge Death - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Death

  32. Medixstiff

    OK then

    "Such a system should be built into new devices in the design stage"

    You get the manufacturers to make one version for the US and LEAVE THE REST OF THE WORLD ALONE.

    Yes there are more places on this planet than the US, if you had a truly World Series of baseball you would know that, dimwit.

  33. Jos
    Joke

    What are you all complaining about?

    At least you know you have one government branch that actually -wants- to listen to you...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Er?

    Well personally, I dont live in the USA, so if he wants me to keep buying American products he'd better make sure they conform to the laws of MY country not his - and keep my information to ME and the appropriate security services of the country where I live not anyone in America who wants a peek.

    Team America - World police

  35. croc

    I'm confused... What does an encrypted device have to do with legal interception? AND if I want to encrypt MY communications, until it is made illegal, who is Comey to tell me not to? If I want to encrypt MY data, good luck with getting me to de-crypt it UNLESS you have a valid warrant from a court I deem to be valid. None of this FISA secret court BS, nor any of your 'National Security' BS.

    Last I heard, the rule of law in the USA was that it was up to the accuser to prove guilt, NOT for the innocent to prove their innocence. Chock off, Comey.

  36. tom dial Silver badge

    First, the requirement for a warrant to search cell phones incident to arrest has been settled law since June, 2014. Before that there was some doubt, but warrants would have been required for cell phones in essentially all other circumstances based on prior law and court decisions. Comey's complaint is not that encryption will prevent searches without warrant (which are illegal) but that when he obtains a legitimate warrant to search a cell phone he may lack the practical capability to do it due to encryption. It is not clear why cell phone encryption hit his hot button (and the Attorney General's as well), since the argument applies equally to many other types of computing equipment.

    Second, it not clear that complaining now makes sense. That horse left the barn more than 20 years ago, not long after PGP became widely available when someone noticed that it could be used for files. Those with a need have been able to use government resistant encryption for quite a while, with a relatively little and declining effort. If they did not do so, and by that became vulnerable to capture for crimes, it is their problem.

    Third, law enforcement officials still have the capability to obtain call metadata by a court order and, with a warrant, to tap phones. The additional capability to decrypt stored data probably would be useful in some edge cases, but probably also represents a tiny part of the search warrant universe, which itself is a small part of the criminal investigation universe. As they cannot do anything effective to prevent encryption, they might as well put it behind them and get on with their business as well as they can. When it turns out that they have enough probable cause to obtain a warrant, they also are likely to have the authority of the issuing court to bring a good deal of pressure to bear on the recipient who denies access to search the device.

    If I had a conspiratorial bent I might think this was a ploy to confuse us into believing that cell phone data encryption was a new and significant impediment to law enforcement activity. I do not think that, but that the complaining officials, like many in all kinds of organizations, have confused themselves into thinking that obscure corner cases are as important as the ordinary common ones.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So in other words

    He wants you to leave your front door unlocked.

  38. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Stop

    I guess Comey is creating a new role as director of the asshole patrol...

    Enough of the bullshit, Comey, we're not convinced that you can manage your current powers without letting them go to your head, much less responsibly use new ones!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    front door, back door

    side door, any any other orifice while you, yes, YOU!!! peadoterrorists lie back and think of England.

    What?! England is not part of the US of A? Even better! - We can hack you and fuck you in your little Englandland and it's all legit, our judge says so, cause we're not bound by the laws of the God-loving US of A there.

    Yours really faithfully,

  40. Velv Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "Question authority...

    And the authorities will question you!"

  41. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Facepalm

    If he thinks there's a 'front door' that can't be exploited by criminals, perhaps he should consider replacing all the computers at the FBI with paper and pen? Because if there's a 'front door' police can use, you can be sure criminals will work out how to use it too.

  42. k317

    How about asking the congress to represent the citizens. Are they not the ones that tell are representatives what they want? Not an appointee telling the people what he wants.

    1. Fatman Silver badge
      WTF?

      RE: How about asking the congress to represent the citizens.

      That will never happen.

      Congress is completely bought and paid for by the special interests.

      BTW, where did you get that idea? Out of a 100 year old high school civics textbook?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Widespread use of encryption will aid law enforcement

    but only if the criminals are not really stupid.

    Without encryption the only 'safe' method of communications for criminals is face to face, no records available unless you can actually physically bug the conversation.

    With freely available encryption criminals will utilise electronic communications giving at least a record of each communication though not it's content. The fact that the communication occurs will aid law enforcement in their investigations. This type of record is available to law enforcement now with a warrant/court order.

    Has this guy never watched 'The Wire'?

  44. Stretch

    Maybe they don't realise that its these very actions that make people want to blow them up.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Encryption blocks nothing.

    Get warrant (or secret FISA order), go to apple/google/microsoft (all US companies) and push legal intercept software to either side of end to end encrypted communications channel.

    If the FBI does not make a big song and dance about how the world will end, people would suspect that they still have no privacy.

    Encryption only moves the the location of the tap, and even then not really, with access to either end point, all the keys can be cloned and the middle can still be tapped. It is just an extra step.

    The real fear is that if the FBI does not claim the world is ending, is that people will migrate their communications away from US based companies, products and services.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Encryption blocks nothing.

      References to encryption of communications are generally off topic here. Comey was complaining about Android and Apple encryption of data at rest. The FBI, as well as state and local police, can obtain warrants to obtain telephone call content. CALEA provides for that. And as noted, they can obtain warrants for email and other communications, and subpoenas for communication metadata, although users may encrypt them so that the results from Google, Microsoft, or others is effectively as unusable as what is stored on an encrypted phone.

      The complaints of Comey, Holder, and others about cell phone data encryption, in addition to almost certainly overstating its importance by quite a few orders of magnitude are, unfortunately from their viewpoint, pretty much about a dead issue, at least for Android phones. The Google Play Store shows 250 encryption programs of various kinds, nearly all of them free and some of them probably decent implementations of secure protocols and algorithms. An Android user willing to install programs from other, perhaps dodgier, sources probably has a much larger set to choose from.Apple users may have to root their device if they don't trust Apple's implementation or one of those available from the Apple store. However, it is likely that those able and willing to root an iPhone, like Android users, can find encryption capabilities from sources that national governments do not control.

  46. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    OH, BOO HOO

    ODFO

  47. Truth4u

    My next phone will be a dumbphone

    Between the NSA, FBI, Google, Facebook, numerous insecure radios (wifi, bluetooth, etc) and all the buggy 20 year old Linux code that only dead neckbeards understand, you just can't trust this technology, like, at all.

  48. Old Handle
    Devil

    Devil's Advocate

    To some extent it's probably true the the FBI does go through the proper court channels when they want access to something, they are after all law enforcement, not a spy agency. But if their job has become harder it's only as a result of the misdeeds of their friends at the NSA. So here's an idea, FBI guys: Why don't you investigate the NSA? Get their unconstitutional bulk surveillance programs shut down and people will presumably relax about security again.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FBI: Oh, we're so concerned about the new encryption...

    ... if only the crooks were sufficiently convinced that we're concerned, and actually relied on it, lol.

  50. Araxian

    funny thing about his comment is the encryption, is only on the file system for the smart phone its does not affect sms or voice calls or data transfers. so his whole comment just shows he doesn't know anything about the technology, he's waaaaaaaaaaying about.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I understand him

    He's not afraid of losing control, he's afraid that his agency is loosing its purpose, which right now is not finding criminals but looking for them with the tools and processes that involves snooping on peoples private information. If that disapears, so does his job in its actual form and the comfort of it.

  52. TsVk!

    Criminals have the right to hide their activity from the Police?

    I think many people here are being closed minded about this topic.

    If the police have enough suspicion and evidence to approach a judge and get a phone tapped there is probably a very good reason for this. Who would want to stand in the way? Certainly not me.

    It's not being suggested that we hand over all our phone data freely. Stop waving the freedom flag (before you wear it out and compromise other serious privacy issues) and look at the issue at hand.

  53. gobbillygoook

    I'm not comfortable with the FBIs courts and warrants

    He says that he's comfortable with the current courts/warrants but he just doesn't get it. To say that there are courts and warrants need to be issued is disingenuous at best. Secret court with no access to the warrants other than by "secret" people does not constitute openness in my view. And there, the call by consumers to have security built into the OS. The FBI and the rest of the intelligence agencies in the world get what they deserve when it comes to not being able to see what the actual bad guys are doing. They should've thought about that before the violated the public's trust in the first place.

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