NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — FBI Director James Comey and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled a proposal Wednesday that would help law enforcement track terrorists by having tech firms make it possible to wiretap phones and encrypted apps.
According to Vance, 111 of his investigations have been hindered by data encryption technology at Apple and Google — which cover 90 percent of the smart phone market.
“It’s affecting the ability to do our job,” Vance said.
So-called end-to-end encryption technology is now widely used in many standard message systems, including Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Similar technology also shields the contents of smartphones running the latest versions of Apple and Google operating software.
“What we are asking for is the designers of these operating systems to be able to respond to lawful court ordered search warrants,” Vance said.
Bratton said encrypted communications and court decisions blocking many wire taps are making it tougher to monitor what terrorists and cyber criminals are up to.
Criminal groups and terrorist organizations quickly embrace communication apps that New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said ISIS reviews and promotes online.
“Just to show how masterful they’ve become in dealing with social media and reaching out to the audience they are trying to recruit,” Bratton said.
Bratton and Vance believe lawmakers are ready to act on this smartphone issue.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, there is concern that ISIS is communicating on the so-called “dark web.”
Top U.S. officials said the terror group is using undetectable apps to spread their message.
ISIS spelled out the tech-loopholes in a 34-page manual that has been translated and released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
ISIS has instructed users to use apps like iMessage because it is encrypted and secure, or other messaging apps like Telegram and Whickr, because they maintain user privacy and offers a self destruction feature.
“If they find someone who might kill on their behalf, or might come and kill in the caliphate, they move them to mobile messaging app and that is encrypted, and at that moment, the needle we’ve been searching the entire nation to find and have found, goes invisible to us,” Comey said.
Law enforcement officials nationwide warned that the encryption is dangerous. Even with a warrant they can’t get access.
Tech companies like Apple and Google started equipping phones with complete encryption several years ago. Once they sell a phone the only person who can access it is the user.
“Some of it’s definitely a response to the revelations from Edward Snowden,” Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent at Mashable.com explained.
Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook says on the website:
“We have… never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
Now, the government wants these companies to reconsider.
Tech companies said if they release the info, terrorists will simply turn to other companies overseas that guarantee encryption.
New Yorkers said there is no easy answer.
“I’m conflicted about that because I feel like terrorists are always going to find the next way to get around us,” Amy Reynolds said.
“I personally have absolutely no problem with the government going into my phone. I have nothing to hide,” Diana Christian said.
Tech experts said encryption isn’t all bad. It protects personal information when you’re banking or making purchases, and as much as it keeps the government from getting information it also keeps hackers and bad guys from stealing too.
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