The FBI Director James Comey has highlighted in different occasions the difficulties faced by law enforcement when dealing with encryption during their investigations.
Now, the FBI is making its request for budget for the next year, in particular asking more economic resources to break encryption when needed.
Giving a look at the FBI’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request document it is possible to find a specific session titled “Going Dark” that reports the following text:
“Going Dark: $38.3 million and 0 positions The requested funding will counter the threat of Going Dark, which includes the inability to access data because of challenges related to encryption, mobility, anonymization, and more. The FBI will develop and acquire tools for electronic device analysis, cryptanalytic capability, and forensic tools. Current services for this initiative are 39 positions (11 agents) and 31.0 million.”
The FBI asked for $38.3 more million on top of the $31 million already requested in 2015 (a total of $69.3 million) to improve its capabilities to get encrypted data and de-anonymize Internet users.
These numbers demonstrate a significant effort of law enforcement to overwhelm the “going dark” problem.
In December, the FBI’s Director James Comey called for tech companies currently providing users with end-to-end encryption to review “their business model” and stop implementing it.
The end-to-end encryption allows users to communicate securely on the internet making impossible for law enforcement to eavesdrop the traffic.
“FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday called for tech companies currently offering end-to-end encryption to reconsider their business model, and instead adopt encryption techniques that allow them to intercept and turn over communications to law enforcement when necessary.” reported The Intercept.
In the past, the FBI’s Director James Comey already requested IT giants to insert a backdoor in their product to allow law enforcement to decrypt data, but the reply of the companies was negative.
The US authorities have been pressuring companies like Apple and Google in public hearings to provide law enforcement access to decrypted communications whenever there’s a lawful request.
“The days of reliable wiretaps are vanishing. [Hacking] is the next best thing for the FBI,” Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, told to Lorenzo Bicchierai from MotherBoard.
It is likely the FBI will spend that money to buy hacking tools, including spyware and zero-day exploits, for its investigations.
“38.3 million dollars buys a hell of a lot of malware and zero-day exploits,” added Soghoian.
The FBI already used hacking techniques during its investigations, in particular to de-anonymize criminals on the dark web. A few weeks ago emerged more details on the operation conducted against TorMail in 2013.
(Security Affairs – Going Dark, FBI)