FBI Director James Comey told Congress on Tuesday that the bureau has appealed to other government agencies for assistance without avail.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Comey testified that even the National Security Agency hasn’t been able to use its code-cracking technology to gain access to the contents of a phone owned by one of the deceased perpetrators of the Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Syed Farook.
The Justice Department has repeatedly asked Apple to give authorities access to the encrypted contents stored on the shooter’s smartphone, but representatives with the tech titan have refused by arguing that accomplishing as much is impossible unless it authors new code that would deliberately weaken the security of its products and put customer data at risk.
Later during Tuesday’s hearing, security expert Susan Landau told lawmakers that the NSA may in fact have an exploit for the shooter’s iPhone but is unwilling to make it available outside of the agency.
“Director Comey said we’ve talked to everyone who’ll talk to us, but I was at an event held by the FCC, and some senior people from DOJ were there and I said ‘Well NSA has skill X and skill Y’ and they said ‘They don’t share them with us except in extraordinary circumstances,’” she recalled.
A solution, Ms. Landau suggested, is that the FBI uses its own resources to develop new exploits instead of hoping tech manufactures will make their devices susceptible to government surveillance.
“Law enforcement don’t have the skills and they need to develop them,” Ms. Landau added, claiming “law enforcement continues to see electronic surveillance in 20th century terms, and it is using 20th century investigative thinking in a 21st century world.”