Apple must unlock the iPhone 5c’s encryption… or else

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The iPhone 5c might be broken wide open. And what's next?
The iPhone 5c might be broken wide open. And what's next?
Photo: Apple

In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook shot up an office party in an apparent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. He may have coordinated the attack on an iPhone 5c.

Since then, authorities have been trying to decrypt the device. And now, a U.S. magistrate is trying to force Apple to unlock it.

Yesterday, U.S. magistrate judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to give the FBI a custom firmware file that would let the bureau unlock an iPhone 5c running iOS 9.

Pym wrote:

Apple’s reasonable technical assistance shall accomplish the following three important functions: (1) it will bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled; (2) it will enable the FBI to submit passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE for testing electronically via the physical device port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other protocol available on the SUBJECT and (3) it will ensure that when the FBI submits passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE, software running on the device will not purposefully introduce any additional delay between passcode attempts beyond what is incurred by Apple hardware.

Apple has five days to respond to the court if it believes that compliance would be “unreasonably burdensome.”

What’s unclear right now is whether Apple can fulfill the order. Apple stopped storing encryption keys after iOS 8, and Cupertino claimed it would be impossible to bypass passcodes to gain access to any iOS device running that version of the software. So whether Apple can or can’t unlock the iPhone? That’s liable to become a big issue in the months and years to come.

Source: Ars Technica