Android swipe-lock mystifies the FBI

It looks like the Untouchables have lost their patience with the multi-gesture passcode locks on Android phones.

When the FBI seized the phone of an alleged gang leader, they found that the password swipe was too difficult for them to crack. They have requested a search warrant that would force Google to “provide law enforcement with any and all means of gaining access, including login and password information, password reset, and/or manufacturer default code (“PUK”), in order to obtain the complete contents of the memory of cellular telephone”.

The phone belonged to an alleged gang leader and human trafficker named Dante Dears in California. Dears founded a gang in California called PhD, for which he was arrested. When he got out of the slammer he is said to have returned to his old ways.

FBI agents conducted surveillance on Dears and allege that he was using a mobile phone to communicate with prostitutes and other associates.

Dears told his parole officer that he did not even own a mobile phone, so the parole officer went to Dears’ apartment and took it. The FBI investigated but the bureau’s forensics investigators couldn’t get past the swipe lock on the Android handset.

In fact, they failed enough times to completely lock the phone which is now wanting the user’s Google username and password for access, and Dears is not going to tell them.

As a result, the FBI is asking that Google be forced to hand over the information to get them into the phone.

If it gets its warrant then it creates some interesting precedents for people in the Land of the Free. It means that a warrant might be enough to get Google to unlock a phone.

Since an unlocked smartphone will continue to receive text messages and new emails one could reasonably argue that the government should have to obtain a wiretap order in order to unlock the phone.

The FBI special agent who wrote the affidavit also requested that Dears not be told about the information request, however for some reason the search warrant and affidavit were not sealed and the information got its way to Wired.