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Apple Has a Waiting List for Police Requesting Decryption of iPhones

CNET reported on Friday May 10, 2013 that Apple receives so many police demands to decrypt seized iPhones that it has created a "waiting list" to handle the flood of requests. The length of the waiting list is unknown, but it looks as though it can be up to four months based on anecdotal examples.
 
Last year, leaked training materials prepared by the Sacramento sheriff's office included a form that would require Apple to "assist law enforcement agents" with "bypassing the cell phone user's passcode so that the agents may search the iPhone." Google takes a more privacy-protective approach: it "resets the password and further provides the reset password to law enforcement," the materials say, which has the side effect of notifying the user that his or her cell phone has been compromised (though in many cases the individual would already know that!).
 
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) official said that Apple "has the capabilities to bypass the security software" and "download the contents of the phone to an external memory device."  Reportedly, once the Apple analyst bypasses the passcode, the data will be downloaded onto a USB external drive and delivered to the ATF.
 
It's not clear whether that means Apple has created a backdoor for police - which some have speculated that it has - or whether the company has custom hardware that's faster at decryption, or whether it simply is more skilled at using the same procedures available to the government. Apple declined to discuss its law enforcement policies. No surprise there.
 
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Thanks to our friend Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. for sharing this May 13, 2013 entry from her Ride The Lightning blog. Sharon is President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a computer forensics and legal technology firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA. Read all of Sharon's posts that appear on ALPS 411 here.

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