TDR, Privacy

FBI efforts to break encryption go way back

April 14, 2016

Well before the FBI's recent demand that Apple give up the keys to the encryption used in an iPhone 5c, the bureau engaged in a similar effort, according to a story in Wednesday's New York Times.

Early in 2003, the FBI received permission from a judge to install surveillance software – now referred to as spyware or malware – on the computers of a group that it hoped would allow them to read encrypted emails.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Trail Mix, involved an animal rights group suspected of "eco-terrorism" against a lab that used pharmaceutical testing on animals.

While it appears that the FBI was unable to break the encryption, it was able to work around the problem – likely using a form of keylogging – though its methods remain classified. An FBI wiretap was disclosed at the suspect's trial, but the software hacking was not, as prescribed by law.

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