Apple Has A Large Police Investigation Backlog For Device Decryption

Posted May 13, 2013

Whenever the police seizes iPhones and iPads from suspects and criminals, they generally send Apple a request to help them decrypt information.  These requests have become so common that Apple now has a large waiting list.  According to court documents reviewed by CNET, an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were told that there would be a 7-week wait before Apple can handle the case that he submitted.

After Apple examines a device, they provide the agency with the device’s data on a USB drive.  We do not know how Apple actually access the data, but CNET suspects that Apple may have a backdoor into iOS that they use for police investigations.  In the first two iterations of Apple’s smartphones, data can be retrieved from the hardware.  Apple iPhone 3GS and higher supported certain hardware encryption that makes data retrieval time-consuming and difficult to access, which is one of the major reasons why government agencies ask for help to begin with.

When Google works with law enforcement agencies, they reset the password of the device and provides them with the new password.  Unfortunately, the criminal or suspect are notified that his or her cellphone has been compromised.