Police Just Found Phone & USB Stick Belonging To Paris Suicide Bomber, After Misplacing It For Almost Two Years

from the but-encryption-is-the-problem dept

Remember how, right after the Paris bombings, people started blaming encryption for the attacks, despite the fact it was later revealed that most of the planning was done in the open and communication occurred via unencrypted SMS messages? As we noted, it seemed pretty clear that the bombings were an intelligence and law enforcement failure rather than an encryption problem.

Now, just to add more evidence to that conclusion in the most ridiculous way possible, apparently Brussels police just found a mobile phone and USB stick that had belonged to one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam. The police had seized the phone and USB stick during a drug raid back in February of 2015... and promptly misplaced them entirely. They were found under a stack of papers. Really.
A cell phone belonging to Paris attacks suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam that had been mislaid by Belgian police was found under a pile of documents in a Molenbeek police station, local media reported Tuesday.

Officers seized the phone and a USB stick belonging to Abdeslam during a drugs raid in Brussels in February 2015. Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, authorities wanted to analyze the phone for details about the terror plot, but it could not be found.

According to local media, the phone was found by chance last week in Molenbeek, the area of Brussels where Abdeslam and others involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks lived.
And yet people want to blame encryption. And, yes, of course police make mistakes and misplace stuff, but perhaps law enforcement should be focused on trying to prevent those kinds of things by being more careful in how they handle evidence before they rush off to blame things like encryption.

This all gets back to a larger point that we've tried to make all along about the whole "going dark" thing: good police detective work will almost always beat out merely breaking into phones. Encryption is useful in protecting messages, but it doesn't hide all activity -- and those who are planning criminal or terrorist attacks quite frequently leave lots of other evidence around. Blaming encryption, rather than law enforcement and intelligence efforts, is a lazy solution. It's a way to cover up for a failure to do their jobs with the already quite powerful tools they have at their disposal.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 8:45am

    Keystone

    So....

    What you're saying is that after the Keystone Kops were no longer en vogue in the U.S., they moved to Belgium?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nate (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 8:48am

    obscurity

    If the thumb drive was secure so long as the cops couldn't find it, does this prove that security through obscurity actually works?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 8:49am

    But for the existence of encryption...

    Ah, but you see this is a case of encryption preventing the apprehension of criminals and prevention of crimes.

    Encryption's sole purpose is to prevent police and government agents from finding and catching criminals.

    As soon as they acquired the laptop and USB stick they 'lost them', preventing them from being used to prevent future criminal acts.

    Therefore the only possible explanation is that both devices were so encrypted that the devices themselves turned into physical manifestations of encryption, preventing police from finding them in time to do any good.

    Had encryption been outlawed as soon as it was created the police never would have lost the devices, and the future terrorist attack could have been prevented as a result.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    My T3 is better than your 100Mb fibre, 16 Nov 2016 @ 8:51am

    That's what you get for capping cop IQ at 110

    The whining keeps getting louder but it's to hard to do our jobs!!

    https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/11/16/top-mountie-lobbying-pm-for-greater-digital-sur veillance-powers.html

    telling the truth is also to hard or checking your own newspaper apparently( do the cap reporter IQ as well?)

    https://www.thestar.com/business/2015/02/27/rcmp-records-called-incomplete-and-inaccurate-in-m emo-geist.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:07am

    Keep staying classy guys!!!

    That is all!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    trumpalicious, 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:25am

    conspiracy 101

    it didnt go missing it was replaced and all data on it put there so they can go ....seeeeeeeeeee

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:29am

    Deflecting Blame

    Encryption, you see, is not the fault of the cops' carelessness with evidence. Therefore it can be safely blamed without upsetting some poor cop's day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Braisedmeats, 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:53am

    Ban Complexity

    Not only should we outlaw encryption but we should also outlaw all complex structures in reality so the police can have a de facto sense of omniscience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    djl47 (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:59am

    Inspector Clouseau

    I'll be hearing the theme from The Pink Panther in my head for the rest of day now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 10:10am

    Funny there is no mention of whether those devices were encrypted or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lisboeta, 16 Nov 2016 @ 10:10am

    Under a stack of papers. Really.

    Really?? Aw, c'mon, quit pulling my leg.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 16 Nov 2016 @ 10:35am

    Encryption _is_ to blame

    The phone obviously was using an encrypted web spider to crawl under the papers. Only when it ran out of battery were they able to discover it.

    This is how technology works. Smartphones can use Internet socks and hiding them is so simple that a washing machine can do it if it has a microprocessor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris Brand (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 10:45am

    Presumably now useless anyway ?

    If they lost them, they presumably can't prove in court that any evidence they find on them hasn't been corrupted in some way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 11:02am

    "They were found under a stack of papers."

    And I thought *my* work desk was messy...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed, 16 Nov 2016 @ 12:02pm

    Under a stack of papers

    Belgian stenography?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James Comey, 16 Nov 2016 @ 1:22pm

    We are going dark.

    Encryption, along with piles of documents, thwarts FBI investigations all the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 2:32pm

    I would be curious to know what that stack of papers was considering it wasn't touched for 2 years time. What case(s) were screwed up because of those papers being ignored?

    Of course they could just be lying again to cover their screw up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 4:42pm

    Whatever's champions, ladies and gentlemen. It's no wonder the dumb fuck hasn't bothered to log in and post, except to troll a little here and there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 5:36pm

    Curses!

    Another investigation foiled by that pesky paperwork!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 17 Nov 2016 @ 7:02am

    Not acceptable

    "And, yes, of course police misplace stuff"

    Well they're not supposed to. One of the most stringent procedures that any PD in the world has to follow is the proper logging and handling of evidence. This stuff should've never been on anyone's desk, and never under any stack of papers. It should've been bagged AT THE SCENE and transported directly back to an evidence locker without passing go, collecting $200, or getting anywhere near a "stack of papers."

    Also, they're cops. They shouldn't have stacks of papers lying around. File folders and cardboard boxes exist for a reason.

    I mean, holy shit, think about this. The 9/11 attacks were in planning for more than 3 years. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there's some useful intel on the flash drive (yeah, probably nothing on the phone by now). What if the "stack of papers" had been chucked into a box and sent to records storage without anyone noticing the flash drive, and then a few months from now some asshat blows up the Eiffel Tower.

    And that's why cops, even in their paperwork, MUST be held to a higher standard. No, "they misplace things" is NOT OKAY. They're the police. They have extraordinary power and thus extraordinary responsibility, because whether it's shooting first and asking questions later, or losing critical evidence in an ACTUAL terrorism case (not to be confused with the FBI entrapment jobs) people really can literally die when cops don't do their jobs right, 100% right and 100% of the time.

    Of course, the blue wall will prevent anyone from being punished in any way for this, no matter how outright horiffic a f**kup this may be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Phllly Bob, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:58pm

    Couldn't they have just called the phone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2016 @ 6:40am

    this is something to remember

    for when they'll be asking for a golden backdoor key to encryption.
    Also the fact it took more than a year to notice shows these guys don't do a minimum yearly inventory run. The sooner you notice these discrepancies the better the chances of undoing them, because people tend to forget, move on to other jobs, die in accidents or in the line of fire and the item can get misplaced again by a second person down the line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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