Apple tells U.S. judge it can’t unlock iPhones running iOS 8 or higher

“Apple Inc. told a federal judge that it ‘would be impossible’ to access user data on a locked iPhone running one of the newer operating systems, but that it could likely help the government unlock an older phone,” Joe Palazzolo reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“In a brief filed late Monday, the company said ‘in most cases now and in the future’ it will be unable to assist the government in unlocking a password-protected iPhone,” Palazzolo reports. “The brief was filed at the invitation of U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, who is considering a request from the Justice Department that he order Apple to help government investigators access a seized iPhone.”

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. — Apple Inc. legal team

“The iPhone in question is running an older operating system, iOS 7, for which Apple ‘has the technical ability to extract certain categories of unencrypted data,’ the company said in the brief,” Palazzolo reports. “Apple can access some user-generated files in Apple’s native apps on phones running iOS 7 and older operating systems, but it can’t extract email, calendar entries or any third-party app data, the brief said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And now it’s on the record.

Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
With Apple court order, activist federal judge seeks to fuel debate about data encryption – October 12, 2015
Judge declines to order Apple to disable security on device seized by U.S. government – October 10, 2015
Apple refused to give iMessages to the U.S. government – September 8, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
U.S. Senate blocks measures to extend so-called Patriot Act; NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in jeopardy – May 23, 2015
Rand Paul commandeers U.S. Senate to protest so-called Patriot Act, government intrusion on Americans’ privacy – May 20, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015


  1. ohhhhh….no…..da gubbermint would NeVEr do anything in violation of the law against its own citizens……….u cAn tRusT us, we promise……that ship has sailed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean……!!!

    Bring on the Ben Franklin quote!!!!!

  2. The point here, in this case, going through a judge, law enforcement has followed correct procedure, which you would want to happen if you were the suspect. Apple has done their part by not being the gate keeper to your data. It just so happens, by design or otherwise, that what is on the phone is inaccessible for the foreseeable future.

    What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with what you have read. By inferring some bad behavior, people sound a bit ridiculous. That does not mean they are crazy or unjustified, but let’s stick to the facts. This one case is not a government conspiracy, nor is it about conspiracy in the smoke filled back room.

    The government has the right to ask a judge to access the phone. The judge has the right to grant it, based on a request for subpoena. Apple has the right to make the request impossible to fulfill. Constitution is preserved at each step.

    Next step is to attempt to compel the suspect to open the phone for the court. The suspect might get contempt of court for refusing to do so. But it depends on what is on the phone. Recommendation: Plead the 5th.

  3. If you are living a good, decent life, then you should not have anything on the phone that you would need to hide from authorities. If you are a criminal, or a child sex abuser, I would see you standing up for this kind of “intrusion” [get it?].
    If the phone was seized lawfully, and information could help save one or more lives, or innocent children, then I would say it is imperative that the federal prosecutors and investigators use whatever means necessary to get at it’s data. It isn’t always about government abuse. There is that, and it should be dealt with using the harshest of punishments, or death, but not all cases are about spying.

    Do not ever say FU to the government. It is better to cast your vote, unless of course your are a felon. Vote to remove the real evil [money] from government.

    It always amazes me how juvenile and immature the comments on MDN are.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.