Tech Industry

FBI tried to break into 6,900 phones -- and failed

Looks like there’s a good chance no one, not even the FBI, can steal data from your phone.

FBI director Christopher Wray says encryption caused the agency to fail at breaking into almost 7,000 phones in the last 11 months.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The FBI thinks encryption is getting out of hand.

In the last 11 months, FBI agents have tried, unsuccessfully, to break into 6,900 mobile devices, reported the Associated Press. That's more than half of the devices the agency targeted, according to FBI director Christopher Wray.

It's not the first we've heard of the FBI's failures at retrieving data from phones in criminal investigations. Last year, Apple refused the agency access to an iPhone belonging to a shooter in a terror attack in San Bernardino, deciding not to create a back door for the agency to use. The FBI only found success after later engaging the help of an unidentified third party.

Seeing data encryption frustrate law enforcers, cybersecurity experts noted the issues are now a "fact of life" and that it's impossible to enable back door access for governments without compromising security.

This only adds to the frustrations of governments across the globe. Wray called device encryption a "huge, huge problem" at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference on Sunday, although he added he understood "there's a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving [them] the tools [needed] to keep the public safe."

Australian and UK governments have also been pushing for weaker encryption -- not just for devices but also messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram -- saying it interferes with investigations into crimes and promotes terror-related activities. In June, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for tech companies to be more active in guarding against terror-related content circulating on their platforms. This came after UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged the same at the Group of Seven summit, following the Manchester attack in May.

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