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The FBI is looking to amend a 1994 law so that it includes Internet companies

U.S. government agencies are upset that they can't spy on suspects' who are using Apple's iMessage service for texting. 

According to government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), messages sent between iPhone users with the iMessage chat service are "impossible" to access because of iMessage's heavy encryption. 

CNET managed to get its hands on a DEA document, which describes a criminal investigation from February of this year. The document said that "it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices" because of the encryption -- even with a federal court order.

Apple's iMessage chat service works a lot like a text message, but is transmitted through the internet rather than SMS messages by wireless carriers. It's an encrypted chat program that has become wildly successful. Apple CEO Tim Cook said 300 billion iMessages had been exchanged as of fall 2012. 

However, the DEA and FBI are having troubles keeping an eye on suspects who use the chat service. For instance, in a case where the DEA drafted a request for a court order to carry out electronic surveillance under Title III of the Federal Wiretap Act, it found that text messages from Verizon Wireless were incomplete because the suspect was an iMessage user.

"There is a growing and dangerous gap between law enforcement's legal authority to conduct electronic surveillance, and its actual ability to conduct such surveillance," said FBI director Robert Mueller. "We must ensure that the laws by which we operate and which provide protection to individual privacy rights keep pace with new threats and new technology."

The FBI is pushing for legislation on the topic, but even if that doesn't go through, government agencies can employ other methods -- such as obtain a warrant allowing them to go into someone's house/office, install keystroke-logging software and record passphrases. They can also send malware to take control of the suspect's device. 

One year ago today, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Navy had launched a new research initiative to explore ways of allowing the government to hack into gaming consoles like the Xbox 360, Wii, or PlayStation 3 to obtain information on gamers.

Source: CNET

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RE: Wiretaps should be illegal, warrant or not
By Argon18 on 4/4/2013 2:13:23 PM , Rating: -1
No it doesn't circumvent the process. You don't understand the process. If law enforcement has reason to believe that you are involved in a large drug deal, they can't just arrest you and charge you. Why? Because they don't have evidence.

The evidence required to convict you of a crime in a courtroom is different (and a lot more comprehensive) than the basic circumstantial evidence required to get a court ordered wire tap. Once they have the wire tap, they can use that to either confirm or deny their suspicions. You're chatting about Justin Bieber? Ok, they were wrong, nothing happens, and you don't get arrested unnecessarily. You chatting about dealing drugs? Ok, now they can listen in, find out where the deal is happening and when, and show up at the deal to arrest those involved. You can't do that without a wire tap.

RE: Wiretaps should be illegal, warrant or not
By tayb on 4/4/2013 3:43:23 PM , Rating: 1
Ok, now they can listen in, find out where the deal is happening and when, and show up at the deal to arrest those involved.

No, you shouldn't be able to do that. Ever. If they don't have enough evidence to seize the phone and go through phone records they don't have enough evidence to tap the phone. This is ridiculous.

You can't do that without a wire tap.

Yeaaaaaah bullshit. If you want to find out where the deal is happening get an informant.

By BRB29 on 4/5/2013 7:51:24 AM , Rating: 2
i suppose informants are a dime a dozen? and their info is accurate?

The next best thing to a wiretap is most likely undercover. That's a bit much to ask someone to risk their life when you can just tap the damn phone.

Phone taps has to be approved by a judge. That's not something that's easy to do. If I'm ever suspected of anything, then they can tap my phone instead of turn my house upside down. But then they better have a damn good reason or else they'll have a lawsuit against them.

By Bateluer on 4/5/2013 4:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
Uh,that is exactly how the system is supposed to work. And you should be arrested by LEO if busted in the middle of a drug deal.

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