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

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  • Federal investigators claimed to have access to encrypted Signal messages used on January 6, 2021 to help charge the leader of the Oath Keepers, an extremist far-right militia group, and other defendants in a seditious plot.
  • Encryption prevents anyone who is not participating in a conversation or channel and reading its content—including on the hosting platform itself.
  • It’s unclear how investigators accessed the messages, but encryption has been a point of tension between law enforcement and the tech industry for years.

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Federal investigators say they accessed encrypted Signal messages sent in the lead-up to the January 6, 2021 riots on the US Capitol, and found evidence to accuse the leader of the Oath Keepers, an extremist far-right militia group. used as. and the other defendant in a seditious conspiracy.

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a new legal . In complaint made public on Thursday, Department of Justice Alleged that the defendants conspired between then-President Donald Trump to vigorously oppose the transfer of power to Joe Biden, including trying to take control of the US Capitol.

The complaint references several messages sent over Signal, an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, raising questions about how authorities accessed them and long-standing tensions between the law enforcement community and the tech industry. missed the point. Encryption scrambles messages so that no one can read them except the intended recipients – including the platform hosting the messages.

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It is unclear how investigators accessed the messages. Representatives for Signal, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to Businesshala’s requests for comment.

One possibility is that another recipient with access to the messages handed them over to investigators. The complaint refers to group messages running on the app, so it’s possible that another participant collaborated in those chats.

Encryption has been the subject of controversy for years between investigators and tech companies. While law enforcement worries that criminals will take advantage of encrypted technology to hide wrongdoing, tech companies such as Apple have argued that it is an important tool for privacy. Law enforcers have in the past tried to open up their devices to tech companies to aid in the investigation of serious crimes, but companies such as Apple argue that if they break encryption for US investigators, it could endanger the entire system. and potentially leave room for foreign opponents. Take advantage of weaknesses.

The issue gained particular prominence in 2015, when Apple refused to break the encryption of a suspect’s iPhone in the wake of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, Calif. After a tense standoff, investigators were finally able to break the encryption anyway.

But some law enforcers have said that new security features on iPhone software now make it harder for them to technically access those devices, even if they were able to obtain a warrant.

The issue arose again under the Trump administration, when Meta, then known as Facebook, announced plans to tie all of its messaging services together and encrypt them end-to-end. Law enforcers said the plans would hinder their ability to crack down on child sexual abuse material on the platform.

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