FBI agent: ‘Macs running Mac OS X can do just about anything’

Dave Thomas, former chief of computer intrusion investigations at FBI headquarters, and current Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis Division of the FBI has told the Scott Granneman of SecurityFocus, “that many of the computer security folks back at FBI HQ use Macs running OS X, since those machines can do just about anything: run software for Mac, Unix, or Windows, using either a GUI or the command line. And they’re secure out of the box. In the field, however, they don’t have as much money to spend, so they have to stretch their dollars by buying WinTel-based hardware. Are you listening, Apple? The FBI wants to buy your stuff. Talk to them!”

Granneman reports, “Dave also had a great quotation for us: ‘If you’re a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac.’ Basically, police and government agencies know what to do with seized Windows machines. They can recover whatever information they want, with tools that they’ve used countless times. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for Unix-based machines. But Macs evidently stymie most law enforcement personnel. They just don’t know how to recover data on them. So what do they do? By and large, law enforcement personnel in American end up sending impounded Macs needing data recovery to the acknowledged North American Mac experts: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Evidently the Mounties have built up a knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none.”

Full article here.


  1. Australian police uses Mac and QTVR. They have done it for sometime now. They saved huge amount of money with that so they hired more Police woman and men. What is next.. Apple JailBand software for the FBI?
    What’s out Gates ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  2. I’m not so sure I completely buy that story. The tech part seemd interesting, but the Mac part was a little off.

    “In the field, however, they don’t have as much money to spend, so they have to stretch their dollars by buying WinTel-based hardware. ” …… sounds fishy.

    Apple laptops are more price competetive than the desktops when it comes to power and features offered.

    Interesting read though.

  3. umm what parts were they buying i havnt really heard of macs needing too many parts and they seem to be as compettitavly priced as wintel parts but then again it’s the government they will go out of there way to make things more expensive than they should be. go figure!

  4. Karl,

    Yes, Apple laptops are more competitive, but a government or educational agency can buy Dell laptops in bulk, thereby getting a significant volume discount. not to mention the bias of the already installed IT dept. Same reason why fleet companies buy Chevy’s in bulk.

  5. karl,
    I think he means field offices versus the DC headquarters. In which case it would still mean desktops….

    but i am basing this on absolutely nothing ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  6. Karl

    Maybe he was telling that you can run PowerPoint with Dell?
    Serious action means Apple ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  7. I’ve often wondered about their knowledge base concerning Macs. How does this relate to filevault. Does the FBI have a key. I would think that that would be more of a concern than just general knowledge.

    After thinking more about it I think it is strange that they don’t have Mac knowledge. It’s not rocket science and frankly I remember the same talk sin the 90’s.

  8. I am with neilt. I have the same impression that the hardware he mentioned was not laptops. Maybe in the field offices, they use Dell’s $400 Piece-of-Crap.

    However, the story tells us something. Your security is less important than money. If it wasn’t, FBI would get a bigger budget to buy a better, more secure computers, wouldn’t it?

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