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More criminals are using iPhones because of encryption, police say

An inmate referred to Apple's encryption system as "a gift from God"
Reuters

Somecriminalshave switched to newiPhonesas their "device of choice" to commit wrongdoing due to strongencryptionAppleInc has placed on their products, three law enforcement groups said in a court filing.

The groups told a judge overseeingApple's battle with the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday that, among other things, they were aware of "numerous instances" in whichcriminalswho previously used so-called throwaway burner phones have now switched toiPhones. They did not list a specific instance of this practice.

The brief by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and two other also cited a jailhouse phone call intercepted by New York authorities in 2015, in which the inmate calledApple's encrypted operating system "another gift from God."

RELATED:Apple calls for government encryption panel

The government obtained a court order last month requiringAppleto write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December killings in San Bernardino, California.

Appleasked that the order be vacated, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.

Tech industry leaders including Google, Facebook and Microsoft and more than two dozen other companies filed legal briefs on Thursday supportingApple. The Justice Department received support from law enforcement groups and six relatives of San Bernardino victims.

The law enforcement groups said in their brief thatApple's stance poses a grave threat to investigations across the country.

They listed several instances whereApplepreviously turned over data, and in one case, that cooperation helped clear an innocent man suspected of a homicide.

Applehas said it respects the FBI and has cooperated by turning over data in its possession. "Applecomplies with valid subpoenas and search warrants," Tim Cook said in a letter to customers last month.

The San Bernardino request is different,Applesays,becauseit requires them to crack a phone with a software tool that does not currently exist.

Law enforcement officials have said that Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were inspired by Islamist militants when they shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others on Dec. 2 at a holiday party in San Bernardino. Farook and Malik were later killed in a shootout withpolice, and the FBI said it wants to read the data on Farook's work phone to investigate any links with militant groups.

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