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FBI director reignites 'not so clean cut' encryption debate

More than a year after the last high-profile showdown between the FBI and Silicon Valley over widespread encryption, recently-installed FBI Director Christopher Wray again signaled that his agency will continue to fight for access.

"This is an urgent public safety issue," Wray said at the International Conference on Cyber Security, according to Reuters. Encryption prevented the bureau from accessing data on nearly 4,000 devices in fiscal 2017, he told the assembled audience.

"I just do not buy the claim that it is impossible" to find a solution, Wray added.

This is the second time since his ascension to the top of the FBI that Wray has chosen to join the encryption debate.

"To put it mildly, this is a huge, huge problem," Wray said last October. "It impacts investigations across the board narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation."

That Wray has now repeatedly voiced these concerns may signal that the bureau, and by extension the federal government, could be planning a more aggressive push for access to encrypted data.

The issue has been on the back burner since the infamous 2016 showdown between Apple and the FBI, which was sparked by an iPhone belonging to the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting. The government attempted to prod Apple and other tech companies to create encryption "backdoors" in their products, resulting in an enormous backlash from both the technology and security communities.