The growing use of strong default encryption on mobile devices and communications by criminal suspects is handicapping investigators’ ability to pursue them, law enforcement officials told Congress on Tuesday, pressing Apple Inc and other companies that defend the technology as integral to protecting consumers.

Apple Inc and the FBI returned to Washington to testify before lawmakers about their heated disagreement over law enforcement access to encrypted devices, highlighted in the case of an iPhone used by a gunman in last December’s Islamist militant-inspired shootings in San Bernardino, California.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation retreated last month from its high-profile pursuit of a court order that compelled Apple to help the agency unlock an iPhone 5c phone used by shooter Rizwan Farook. A still secret third party helped the government hack into it.

But the U.S. Department of Justice redoubled its efforts last week to use the courts to force Apple’s cooperation in cracking encrypted iPhones by announcing plans to continue with an appeal in an unrelated New York drug case.

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