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article imageApple tells the government it's 'impossible' to decrypt iPhones

By James Walker     Oct 21, 2015 in Technology
Apple has told a federal judge that it would be "impossible" to fulfill any request to decrypt the data on iPhones or add a "back door" to let the authorities in without compromising user privacy.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein that fulfilling the government's order of extracting user data from devices would be "substantially burdensome" and "impossible" to successfully perform.
The company claims the device encryption methods used in iOS 8 and iOS 9 mean that nobody can access an iPhone's data partition without supplying the owner's passcode. Apple itself has no means of removing the encryption and is steadfastly refusing to add any backdoor that could make this possible in the future.
The U.S. government wants Apple and other technology companies to create secret, secure channels into their devices that would let spy agencies access data when required. The manufacturers have consistently said that this could never be achieved without compromising user privacy as inevitably hackers would find a way to exploit the backdoor entry point themselves.
In its brief filed on Monday, Apple wrote: "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."
The brief was filed in response to a request from the U.S. Justice Department for Apple's help in accessing data on an iPhone running iOS 7. Because the older operating system does not have the same advanced encryption features as the versions referred to in Apple's statement, the company has indicated it could help the government provided the device is in working order.
It would much rather prefer not to though in case it upsets the trust between itself and its customers. Judge Orenstein has previously said he doubts he can force Apple to help the government.
Apple says there isn't a clear legal authority that says the Justice Department can force it to pull data off the device, adding that any files retrieved would be limited to some user-generated entries from native iOS apps. Even in iOS 7, Apple says it has no way of accessing email messages or calendar appointments.
The company is continuing to work with other technology companies like Google and Microsoft who agree that user-generated data should remain the property of the user. They see adding a backdoor to their software as a step backwards in device security, claiming that the effects of storage encryption could become meaningless if there was an "official" way to gain access to the decryption key.
More about Apple, iPhone, Ios, Encryption, backdoor
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