The deputy US Attorney General said he wants legislators to force technology companies to decrypt people's private conversations.
Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday told a crowd of over 600 police officers that software developers should be required by law to unscrambled end-to-end encrypted chatter on demand – and if the engineers refuse, they should be strong-armed into complying.
"Unfortunately, some companies are unwilling to help enforce court orders to obtain evidence of criminal activity stored in electronic devices," Rosenstein told attendees at the Utah National Security and Anti-Terrorism Conference in Salt Lake City.
"I hope that technology companies will work with us to stop criminals from defeating law enforcement. Otherwise, legislation may be necessary."
Rosenstein, who does not have any legislative power, did not elaborate on just what those laws might be or how they might be enforced.
He did, however, bring up the 2016 battle between Apple and the FBI over access to a locked iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Facing opposition from Apple, the Feds eventually opted instead to pay for a zero-day vulnerability to circumvent the passcode. No information of value was found on the phone.
"After a terrorist attack, obtaining stored electronic information is an effective and necessary law enforcement technique," Rosenstein said.
"But as we saw after the San Bernardino attack, obtaining electronic data can be time-consuming, expensive and uncertain if technology providers refuse to cooperate."
He also made a point somehow related to encryption when he referenced the natural disaster unfolding in Texas.
"Law enforcement agencies must always be prepared for the storm – be it the literal hurricane that caused such devastation in Texas this week, or the figurative storm of a terrorist attack." ®