FBI locked out by Android pattern lock


Android security tends to be a popular subject of discussion when looking for an area to criticise Android. Whether it be the much maligned Face Unlock or long-standing Pattern Lock, many tech sites enjoy nitpicking at every available opportunity. There is however one major organisation who might just disagree with the naysayers, the FBI.

Dante Dears, a San Diego based pimp was recently released from prison after serving time for trafficking prostitutes. Dears immediately violated the term of his parole by owning a cell phone which informants claim he was using to continue his pimping remotely. Naturally the FBI seized the phone and it was then that the problems began.

Dears refused to unlock the phone so the FBI promptly sent it off to the Computer Forensics Lab. Technicians at the lab succeeded only in locking the phone after too many unsuccessful unlock attempts. The phone then prompted the technicians for Dears’ Google login details which , of course, he refused to hand over. At this point the FBI had little option but to head cap-in-hand to Google to request the information. A warrant was served that asked Google for the following information :

  • The subscriber’s name, address, Social Security number, account login and password
  • “All e-mail and personal contact list information on file for cellular telephone”
  • The times and duration of every webpage visited
  • All text messages sent and received from the phone, including photo and video messages
  • Any e-mail addresses or instant messenger accounts used on the phone
  • “Verbal and/or written instructions for overriding the ‘pattern lock’ installed on the” phone
  • All search terms, Internet history, and GPS data that Google has stored for the phone

Google responded with the following statement : “Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal process. Whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.”

How is it the phrase goes? “Pimpin’ ain’t easy”, well it seems that advances in mobile technology inadvertently made it a little easier. It goes without saying that TalkAndroid absolutely does not condone the behaviour of Dears although it is reassuring to know that the average Android owner is well protected. Perhaps the FBI will be hoping that the adoption of Ice Cream Sandwich brings an increase in Face Unlock usage, at least then they might be able to get into the phone with mugshot photos.


source : ars technica

About the Author: Chris Stewart

Originally from Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, I'm now living in the UK's second city, Birmingham. I've had a passion for gadgets from a very young age, it all started with my Commodore 64 at the tender age of 2 years old. I purchased my first mobile phone aged 17 and it was from there the obsession began. Having now gone through 33 phones in 13 years it's safe to say my passion for phones is alive and well! My current phone is the Galaxy Nexus as I'm a big fan of the pure Android experience. I've been working in the Banking industry for the past 10 years and I'm currently working in Human Resources for one of the World's largest Retail Banks. I spend my spare time with my wonderful wife and young family and when I'm not fiddling with phones and tablets I can be found playing football (soccer for you guys in the States!), watching Mixed Martial Arts, tinkering with cars or listening to music.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mikedep333 Michael DePaulo

    I suppose it didn’t hurt to ask, but Google only stores a handful of all those things they asked for.

    And I doubt there is a backdoor to the pattern lock.

  • Anonymous

    I use iPhone 4 but has the pattern lock and disabled the “slide to unlock” function. Everything is invisible on the lock screen. Without any knowledge of how, no one can unlock my phone.

    • jimp

      Really? How interesting – not

      • Anonymous

        Who cares if you are interested or not?

    • http://twitter.com/edur0m3r Eduardo Romero

      I had an iphone and that JB tweak, whenever there is a crash you can unlock with no problem, so is not safe at all that little tweak, i preffer my android now

      • Anonymous

        What do you mean by “crash” and “unlock with no problem”? It never happened to me but it will be good to know.

  • IntlBleu

    I just hope Google doesn’t allow the FBI to mock the u.s.
    constitution which was set forth by our forefathers. it’s more than them trying
    to unlock a pimp’s smart phone riding on this. there are laws that govern this
    kinda stuff. what about due-process? due-diligence? right to privacy? search
    and seizure?  i’ve read many of articles
    and the actual search warrant regarding this matter, it’s all he say-she say,
    or mere assumptions from this man’s past-life. nothing factual.


    if Google provides entry into this man’s phone; where does
    our society go from here? who’s rights are violated next? o yea, it will
    continue, think about it…. IT MAY BE YOU! are we a democracy? or, are we
    becoming a communist society? hnmmmmm!

  • Essy

    i forgot my Sony Z1 configuration pattern. how to recovery it?