Terrorist groups are increasingly using encrypted platforms to communicate and plan attacks, stymying FBI surveillance efforts, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray’s Thursday testimony to Congress.
Wray revealed that “the FBI was unable to access the content of approximately 7,800 mobile devices using appropriate and available technical tools, even though there was legal authority to do so,” adding “this figure represents slightly over half of all the mobile devices the FBI attempted to access in that timeframe.”
The FBI director continued that “our agents and analysts are increasingly finding that communications and contacts between groups like ISIS and potential recruits occur in encrypted private messaging platforms,” warning, “If we cannot access this evidence, it will have ongoing, significant effects on our ability to identify, stop, and prosecute these offenders.” The director’s testimony referred to this phenomenon as “going dark”
ISIS frequently uses encrypted messaging platforms like Telegram, Whatsapp, and other mobile applications to distribute propaganda, encourage attacks, and communicate. “All the big groups are on it. We see ISIS talking about the benefits of Telegram and encouraging its followers to use it,” Middle East Media Research Institute analyst Steven Stalinsky told The Washington Post of the Telegram app.
“There’s little you can do, because if you allow this tool to be used for good, there will always be some people who would misuse it,” Telegram founder Pavel Durov lamented to CBS News of the terrorist group’s use of the app.
The issue of encryption came to a head during the investigation into San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook and his wife. The FBI was forced to pay nearly a million dollars to open Farook’s left behind iPhone locked with fingerprint technology after Apple Inc. refused to cooperate.
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