Report: Federal wiretaps foiled by encryption methods

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts (AO) acknowledged that encryption methods, for the first time ever, foiled law enforcement wiretaps in 2012, Wired reported Friday.

“Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012 and for 7 wiretaps conducted during previous years. In four of these wiretaps, officials were unable to decipher the plain text of the messages,” said the Friday AO report.

AO is an agency of the judicial branch of government.

“This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the AO began collecting encryption data in 2001,” said the report.

The report also stated that out of 2,381 telephone wiretaps installed by federal and state officials in 2012, “a majority of them” involved cell phones.

Wiretaps were used to investigate drug-related criminal offenses 87 percent of the time.

Over three percent of wiretap applications were related to homocide investigations; under three percent were regarding racketeering related offenses.

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