SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — President Barack Obama announced the formation of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity and unveiled his final federal budget which includes $19 billion for cybersecurity funding.
The President’s announcements were made just as FBI Director James Comey told a Senate panel on Tuesday that investigators still have not been able to unlock the encrypted cellphone belonging to one of the shooters who shot and killed 14 people and wounded more than 20 others in San Bernardino in December.
Investigators believe the cellphone may hold valuable clues, but say that they can’t get into it because of the encryption technology. Both shooters were killed during a subsequent shootout with police, leaving the FBI without the passcode.
That attack has put the issue of encryption and cybersecurity in the national spotlight.
A new anti-trafficking bill introduced in the California legislature in January could require that all smartphones sold in the state be capable of decryption and unlocking by the phone’s manufacturer or its operating system provider, essentially overriding the user’s passcode.
Obama’s budget for cybersecurity funding is a 35 percent increase over the previous budget. He is also stepping up the push to get more cooperation from technology companies, including those in Silicon Valley.
The President told CBS’s Allen Martin that “Groups like ISIL are getting more sophisticated and they are using encryption technology to make it much more difficult to detect plotting that they (sic) may be taking place.”
Obama said he hopes tech companies will cooperate in matters of national security.
“They’re really smart and they should be able to figure out how to protect legitimate uses of the Internet and social media that’s being used by ordinary folks but that where there’s probable cause, where there’s serious suspicion that we can potentially figure out and disrupt plots ahead of time,” Obama told CBS.
But President Obama acknowledged that any government involvement in people’s online presence is a sensitive issue.
“We want to make sure that we’re preserving privacy, that people feel confident that the government isn’t snoopin’ on their emails or their texts or what have you,” Obama said.
Both Facebook and Twitter have recently mad moves to cooperate with national security. Facebook has said it will remove terrorist propaganda while Twitter claimed that they have suspended more than 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorists acts.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter