Security code could reveal answers in Columbia Heights missing person case

- Digital forensics experts believe when it comes to the ability to crack your cell phone’s security code forensics if government agencies had an inch, hackers would take a mile.

“I don't think that installing a back door to solve a missing person’s case or a dozen or even a hundred a year balances out with the security risk it would pose to everyone else,” Mark Lanterman, Chief Technology Officer of Computer Forensic Services, said. “To put a cancer inside an otherwise secure product, I think that’s a horrible idea.”

The reason Apple and Android developers don’t make exceptions when it comes to your security code is for your protection.

“If I have someone's iPhone, you become them, you can take over their identity, and it's almost as bad as credit card fraud. Only now I'm taking over your social media accounts, I'm pretending to be you online,” Lanterman said.

And because your phone’s security is usually improved with every update, tight protections leave even the savviest detectives stuck in their attempts to get into missing persons’ devices.

“The backdoors and ways we had before are just gone,” Anoka County Sheriff’s Detective Justin Bloch said.

Bloch’s department is currently working on Segundo Lemas’ case.

Lema's currently unknown security code would help trace the 20-year-old newlywed and budding father, who was last seen at Lyon’s Pub in Minneapolis on the early morning April 8.

“It makes our life a lot more difficult to not be able to get into them, because cases like this could potentially be solved if we could,” Bloch said. “My understanding is that he used his phone all the time and we would want to know who he’s talking to.”

Investigators could also learn GPS coordinates, previous locations visited and Lema's final messages to people his family may not be aware he was in contact with.

At last check Lema’s phone remains locked, along with answers to key questions.

“Where concerned someone would find them and they wanted to be gone? Or was it an accident?" Bloch said. "You have no idea,” 

This quandary leads Lema’s hurting family and law enforcement to wonder: How much security is too much security?

To that question, Lanterman has a suggestion--one you may consider a catch-22.

“If they’re a significant other it may not be a bad idea to share your password,” he said, “ If you want your family to have this information, share your password.”

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