Former FBI Director: ‘Virtual Currencies Obscure Investigations’
On May 2 the former FBI Director James Comey told a Senate Judiciary Committee that the federal law enforcement agency’s efforts are “going dark” due to the rise of virtual currencies and encryption methods.
The FBI is ‘Going Dark’ Due to Advanced Technology
This week U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey. He has been scrutinized over the past few months due to security leaks and his relationship with members of the Russian government. Just a few days before Trump pushed Comey out of his position the FBI Director spoke to a Senate Judiciary Committee concerning threats against the nation and the agencies’ issues with technology.
“Unfortunately, there is a real and growing gap between law enforcement’s legal authority to access digital information and its technical ability to do so,” explains Comey. “The FBI refers to this growing challenge as ‘going dark,’ and it affects the spectrum of our work.”
The Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security
Comey goes on to detail that during the first half of the fiscal year the federal agency was unable to access data on 3000 mobile devices using the government’s technological resources. “This figure represents nearly half of all the mobile devices the FBI attempted to access in that timeframe,” the former Director notes.
During his speech Comey also states some people believe the challenge the FBI deals with is a “tradeoff between privacy and security.” However, members of the FBI believe accessing data using legal authority, such as a warrant, justifies the agencies need to access private information on mobile phones and computers. The recent statements also resemble comments from Comey during an August security symposium organized by Symantec. The FBI Director said at the time that absolute privacy in the U.S. is a farce.
“The general principle is one that we’ve always accepted in the United States and has been at the core of our country,” Comey stated during the event.
There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America. There is no place outside of judicial authority.
Virtual Currencies Are Being Used to Obscure Transactions
At the Senate Judiciary Committee Comey says nearly every crime these days has an “element that is digitally-based or facilitated.” The former director says groups like ISIS are using technology like social media, and encrypted messaging platforms to recruit more members. Furthermore, Comey says currencies like bitcoin are being used to anonymize illegal transactions.
“Some of our criminal investigators face the challenge of identifying online pedophiles who hide their crimes and identities behind layers of anonymizing technologies, or drug traffickers who use virtual currencies to obscure their transactions,” Comey reveals.
FBI special agents and analysts should have the very best technological tools and data centers available to combat the ‘going dark’ period the agency faces, says Comey. Although as Comey leaves his Director position, the U.S. federal government has also given the FBI a mandate to decrease the number of data centers the agency uses across the country.
What do you think about Comey’s statements before being fired by Trump? Let us know in the comments below.
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