FBI can’t break the password on Dayton mass shooting suspect’s phones

Having a secured phone with no third-party intruders can snoop in is bliss for consumers; however, for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FB), it is a source of tremendous headache. And this fact is yet again proven when the law enforcement agency said that they could not crack the passcode on the phone of the Dayton mass shooter and they have been working on it for a week now.

On Sunday, residents of Dayton, Ohia woke up to the disaster that has left nine people dead and 27 injured after a 24-year-old gunman opened fire in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday. The suspect, who was also killed, has been identified as Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio.

As the investigation progresses, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said that the bureau is having a hard time cracking the passcode of the suspect as they don’t know whether he used a six-digit pin or an eight-digit password, making the decoding and decrypting almost impossible to do.

Getting access to suspect’s phone may lead the investigators to the real motive behind the shooting as the wealth of information like communications, browsing the history, saved notes, among other things, can paint a clearer picture on the suspect and his motivations. However, as the FBI said, it is not an easy thing to do.

Bowdich said that it could take months or years to break and while the law enforcement agency was able to unlock one of the shooter’s phones, a Samsung phone as reported,

he apparently has multiple cellphones in possession. It is unclear if the unlocked phones are Android or iPhones.

“We don’t know when we are going to get into the phone,” Bowditch told House Democrats earlier this week.

In the past, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also faced with a similar dilemma during the San Bernardino shooting where the suspect’s iPhone could also not be unlocked by the authorities. The incident has led to a well-documented legal battle between the FBI and Apple, the creators of the iPhone.

The high-stakes lawsuit brought forth by the FBI against Apple alleges that the stern security features of the iPhone make it hard for law enforcement and government agencies to bypass.  According to the FBI, the advanced encryption systems in iPhones are hurting their investigations and are allowing criminals and terrorists to “go dark” online. They complained that tech companies have been very uncooperative with their operation and investigations.

Following the 2015 lawsuit, the FBI was able to compel Apple to help them in bypassing the phone’s security features to crack the passcode in the San Bernardino shooting suspect’s phone.

For the last few years, the FBI and other government agencies have been contracting the help of third-party companies to help them crack phones’ passcodes and they, most of the time, come in a hefty price tag.

Back in May, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made a $1.2 million purchase for a technology that would essentially hack into a locked iPhone. The said contract has two components. The first one, valued at $384,000 and was made on September 2018, and another made this month for $819,000. Sources revealed that the said hacking equipment would go to the agency’s Homeland Security Investigation unit. 

For what it’s worth, the ICE refused to disclose what they intend for the technology and how it will be used. However, these purchases have highlighted how law enforcement agencies and government agents have been working on to find ways to bypass people’s privacy in the name of “national interest.”

The purchases made by the ICE was with a company named Grayshift. The company is known for marketing tools to law enforcement, specifically those that can hack into locked iPhones. They have been involved in so many conflicts with Apple as the tech company develops encryptions that would block Grayshift’s ability to hack into the device, but Grayshift seems always to find a new way to get in.

In the past, the company is known to have signed contracts with different law enforcement agencies like the FBI, ICE, and other government agencies to offer their iPhone hacking services. The total amount of deal the company inked with the U.S. government reaches $2.6 million according to the information on a government spending database.

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