Android Lock Pattern Stumps FBI, Serves Google Warrant

Sara J Dufort

When it comes to technology, society expects the Federal Bureau of Investigation to keep up with the ever changing capabilities in order to keep society safe. However, according to a warrant issued to Google, even the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Lab (RCFL) couldn’t gain access to a suspected pimp’s phone, due to his Android phone lock pattern. The cell phone was seized from Dante Dears on January 17, as a part of a human trafficking investigation.

Dante Dears was convicted in 2005 for beating up a 15 year old he recruited from a downtown San Diego homeless shelter, and for his involvement in the street gang “Pimpin’ Hoes Daily.” Dante’s served a four year sentenced and was released in 2009, but violated his parole and went back to jail for another year and a half. When he was finally released in 2011, Dante was placed on house arrest with GPS monitoring to prohibit him from continuing his illegal activities.

However, according to the FBI, Dears found a way to get around this and still maintained his operation – all using a cell phone. A source who was watching Dears observed him taking phone calls where he discussed the night’s prostitution activities and also saw him sending text messages. Once a text message was sent, a woman would arrive at the home, and give him money. This was enough evidence for his parole officer to seize the phone, but Dears refused to unlock the phone, despite it being a violation of his parole.

On February 14, 2012 the Regional Computer Forensics Lab was unable to get past Dears lock screen, and without his Gmail username and password, the FBI’s effort to access his phone came to a halt. Therefore, on March 9, the FBI served Google a warrant.

In the request given to Google, they requested Dears social security number, account login and passwords, all emails and contacts stored in his phone, all texts sent and received (including photo and video messages), and the time and duration of every web page that Dears visited. Despite the fact that a source maintains that he saw Dears using the phone for long durations of time, Dears still maintains that the cell phone was not his.

Since it is possible that the phone will continue to receive calls and text messages after the phone has been unlocked, security researcher, Chris Soghoian, says, “one could reasonably argue that the government should have to obtain a wiretap in order to unlock the phone.”

It is still unknown if Google will comply with the warrant. In a statement to the press Google said, “”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.”