Android screen lock bests FBI

A court filing from an FBI Special Agent reports that the Bureau's forensics teams can't crack the pattern-lock utility on Android devices' screens. This is moderately comforting, given the courts' recent findings that mobile phones can be searched without warrants. David Kravets writes on Wired:

A San Diego federal judge days ago approved the warrant upon a request by FBI Special Agent Jonathan Cupina. The warrant was disclosed Wednesday by security researcher Christopher Soghoian,

In a court filing, Cupina wrote: (.pdf)

Failure to gain access to the cellular telephone’s memory was caused by an electronic ‘pattern lock’ programmed into the cellular telephone. A pattern lock is a modern type of password installed on electronic devices, typically cellular telephones. To unlock the device, a user must move a finger or stylus over the keypad touch screen in a precise pattern so as to trigger the previously coded un-locking mechanism. Entering repeated incorrect patterns will cause a lock-out, requiring a Google e-mail login and password to override. Without the Google e-mail login and password, the cellular telephone’s memory can not be accessed. Obtaining this information from Google, per the issuance of this search warrant, will allow law enforcement to gain access to the contents of the memory of the cellular telephone in question.

Rosenberg, in a telephone interview, suggested the authorities could “dismantle a phone and extract data from the physical components inside if you’re looking to get access.”

However, that runs the risk of damaging the phone’s innards, and preventing any data recovery.

FBI Can’t Crack Android Pattern-Screen Lock

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