Judge orders Apple to unlock San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone

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By Larry Banks

Apple has been ordered by a federal judge to assist the Justice Department to unlock an iPhone used by one of the gunmen involved in the San Bernadino attacks in December.

The ruling on Tuesday requests that Apple disable the security feature that causes the iPhone to wipe its memory after 10 unsuccessful unlock attempts. This would allow the FBI to use a brute force technique, in other words trying millions of combinations of passwords, without risking losing the data.

FBI Director James Comey said the agency has not been able to break into the phone after two months.

The iPhone maker however says it doesn’t store decryption keys for iPhones on its own servers, instead they remain on the device. The Washington Post reported that industry experts believe Apple cannot disable the wipe feature, as it can only be disabled by changing the phone’s settings when it’s unlocked.

US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym meanwhile said Apple can write special software to bypass the feature on the phone, but that’s in effect a request to create a backdoor for iPhones and the firm is expected to resist the order.

Even if that were possible, the FBI must still find a way to attempt millions of passwords.

The company says it could take more than five years to crack a 6-digit alphanumeric password. A supercomputer could speed up the process, but that would require the phone’s hardware key which Apple doesn’t store.

Currently, Apple is under pressure to help with the investigation of the deadliest attack on US soil since 9-11, while also sticking to its promise of secure personal devices.

The eventual outcome may set a standard for such cases. Apple has just five days to respond to the order.

SOURCE: The Washington Post.

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