NYC Police: Criminals Call Apple Encryption a ‘Gift from God’

Police and prosecutors in New York City said Thursday that the top-notch encryption technology on Apple mobile phones is now routinely hindering criminal investigations. And they predicted the problem could grow worse as more criminals figure out how well the devices keep secrets.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said at a news conference that investigators cannot access 175 Apple devices sitting in his cybercrime lab because of encryption embedded in the company's latest operating systems.

"They're warrant proof," he said, adding that the inability to peer inside the devices was especially problematic because so much evidence once stored in file cabinets, on paper, and in vaults, is now only on criminals' smartphones.

Apple has marketed its encryption data as an important privacy tool, and many privacy advocates have praised the company, saying that if it opened its devices to government surveillance that ability to spy on users could be abused in places with authoritarian regimes.

"There is no magic key that only good guys can use and bad guys cannot," said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization.

"Any vulnerability Apple is forced to create in its phones can and will be exploited by criminals making all less secure," Cohn said. "This is really a question of security versus surveillance."

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is currently fighting a federal magistrate's order to help the FBI hack into an iPhone used by a gunman in December's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. An Apple spokesman did not immediately return a call Thursday for comment on the concerns of New York City authorities.

Vance didn't specify which cases were being hindered. But Police Commissioner William Bratton said a phone seized in the investigation of the shooting of two police officers in the Bronx last month is among those detectives...

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