We Built a Database of Over 500 iPhones Cops Have Tried to Unlock
“I think efforts like this are important to try to help the public and policy makers understand what is going on,” Jim Baker, former general counsel of the FBI and now director of national security and cybersecurity at thinktank the R Street Institute, told Motherboard in a phone call.
Baker was the FBI’s head lawyer during the San Bernardino case, where the Department of Justice tried to legally compel Apple to introduce a flaw into a version of its operating system to make it easier for law enforcement to unlock an iPhone. He has since said that public safety officials have to learn to live with encryption because the alternative of introducing a backdoor creates more vulnerabilities in devices that everybody uses.
“This was something that frustrated me tremendously when I was in the government,” Baker said. “It was very hard to get good data that we could rely on to make a strong case about how bad the problem was.”
Baker said one reason it was difficult to obtain good data was due to how some law enforcement officials don’t even bother to go through the process of obtaining a warrant and trying to unlock a phone because they already know that the device is encrypted and they likely won’t get any useful information.
“How do you count that?” when there is no search warrant or application available, Baker asked.
“Right now, there is no known mechanism to do what DOJ wants to do without introducing substantial cybersecurity risk into the system beyond that which already exists, which is also substantial,” Baker, the former FBI general counsel, said. “It makes the cybersecurity posture of the United States even worse.” Instead, public safety officials need to rethink not only their approach to encryption, but how they investigate crimes too, Baker added.
“There will be costs in certain types of investigations, but encryption is something that can protect everybody and shouldn’t be undermined,” Baker said.
He added, “It is the world we are in today, and so have to deal with it.”