Apple Cannot Hand Over iPhone Data to Cops

by Istvan Fekete on October 21, 2015

Apple has informed a federal judge that it “would be impossible” to crack open a locked iPhone running iOS 8 or later, but it that could likely help the government unlock a model running older versions of its operating system.

The company filed a brief on Monday saying, “in most cases now and in the future” it would be unable to assist the government in unlocking a password-protected iPhone. The brief was filed at the invitation of US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, who had been awaiting Apple’s response in a case that involves a seized iPhone. The government requested the court to order Apple to help the investigation by accessing user data on the iPhone running iOS 7.

“In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform. For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests—take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government. Among the security features in iOS 8 is a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing the device’s encrypted data. This includes Apple,” the iPhone maker said.

The brief mirrors Apple’s position in a debate with law enforcement agencies over phone encryption. The government would like backdoor access to smartphones, but Apple said it won’t let them in, because it doesn’t have the key.

However, as Apple pointed out in its comments, this applies only to devices running iOS 8 or later. The iPhone in question is running iOS 7, so Apple has the technical ability to extract certain categories of unencrypted data, such as some user-generated files in Apple’s native apps, but cannot extract data from email, calendar entries, or any third-party app data.

It is worth noting that Apple added that it could likely help the government if the iPhone is in working order, without substantial cost or burden, but it would prefer not to.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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