With Apple's devices "going dark" with the release of iOS 8, a former head of the FBI says the increasing use of data encryption will hinder the ability of law enforcement agencies to solve crimes.
Apple has tied its hands with regard to data locked behind the pin codes of the mobile devices it sells. Even if it wanted to, there's no way it can assist law enforcement agencies in lifting data off a locked iPhone or iPad.
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," says Apple. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
This "going dark" by Apple and others is "problematic," according to Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI's criminal investigative division.
Both iOS 8 and Android L are encrypted by default. Hosko notes that a kidnapped man in a case several years ago would have died if that encryption was in place back during the FBI investigation.
"Had this technology been used by the conspirators in our case, our victim would be dead," says Hosko. "The perpetrators would likely be freely plotting their next revenge attack."
Just before Hosko retired, the father of a Wake Forest, N.C., prosecutor was kidnapped and beaten, the former FBI chief says. After hundreds of law enforcement personnel narrowed down a list of suspects, the FBI had no trouble gaining authorization to intercept calls and text messages from multiple devices, recalls Hosko.
"That led us to the victim, just minutes before his life was to end. He'd been locked in a closet in a vacant public housing project apartment in Atlanta, hundreds of miles from his home, quietly awaiting his own execution," states Hosko.
Apple says it considers information requests from government agencies a consequence of conducting business in the digital age. It has taken a firm stance in protecting all of its customer's data, but Hosko says the tech firm's latest measures will be an invaluable help to criminals.
"I have little interest in the government collecting and storing all of my texts and e-mails or logging all of my calls," says Hosko. "But Apple's and Android's new protections will protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially. They will protect those who desperately need to be stopped from lawful, authorized, and entirely necessary safety and security efforts."