Cybersecurity

Manhattan DA’s office says it has 400 devices it can’t unlock

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The District Attorney for New York County released a report Thursday saying it has now seized more than 400 tablets and smartphones it could not investigate due to encryption and other security measures.

The updated “Report on Smartphone Encryption and Device Safety” says the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has seized 423 devices since 2014 that it has been unable to open.

{mosads}A major focus of the report is its claim that companies can provide some form of backdoor to allow law enforcement with warrants to access these kinds of phones without weakening overall cybersecurity. 

“[The report] concludes that requiring smartphone makers to retain the ability to extract data will not increase users’ risks of being hacked,” New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in remarks at a financial crimes and cybersecurity symposium hosted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

“It also concludes – and I am sorry for the spoilers – that doing nothing about this problem will perpetuate an untenable arms race between private industry and law enforcement, and that federal legislation is our only chance to lay these arms aside,” he said.

The report argues that a law enforcement backdoor would be secure since “[t]o obtain the information from a person’s smartphone, a hacker would need both Apple’s secret means to bypass a phone’s passcode and the phone itself.”

It also notes that, until iPhone OS 8, Apple phones could be unlocked by the company. Apple said that the company’s access process had never to its knowledge been compromised by hackers. 

Cybersecurity experts overwhelmingly believe creating backdoors in devices or encryption gives hackers a new entry point to attack, creating more security problems than their investigatory value. 

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