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Federal investigators say they used encrypted Signal messages to charge Oath Keepers leader


Equin0x
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https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/13/feds-say-they-used-encrypted-messages-to-charge-oath-keepers-leader.html

Federal investigators say they accessed encrypted Signal messages sent before the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the U.S. Capitol, and used them as evidence to charge the leader of Oath Keepers, an extremist far-right militia group, and other defendants in a seditious plot

 

My guess is they got access by directly examining the device of a participant in the chats, whether that was a suspect they arrested or another participant willingly handed them over. I doubt the underlying encryption itself was broken. While possible, there has never been any suggestion to support that and a capability of that nature would be like Enigma - Far more useful to keep secret than burn on a case like this. Articles discussing this kind of thing often don't make this point clear, they tend to imply that if the authorities got access then it means the encryption itself is "broken". Possibly just a case of writers not really understanding the subject, but the cynic in me wonders if it's at least partly deliberate to try and scare people away from using encryption and make them think it doesn't work. I'm reminded of the Snowden quote

“Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”

The police might not be able to break the 256 bit crypto protecting your messages as they travel across the network, but they often don't need to. It's usually much easier to attack the end point (in this case the physical phone) where the messages are decrypted. If you've got a sufficiently complex passcode on your phone and it's switched off at the time it's seized then there's a good chance forensics won't get into it, but realistically how often does that happen? I'd wager that the type of people who think it's a clever idea to invade the US Capitol while posting selfies to their social media aren't the type of people to think that far ahead.

Edited by Equin0x
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