Apple May Be Able to Bypass Your iPhone’s Password, but There’s a Waiting List

Law enforcement requests to hack iPhones are so high Apple apparently has a waiting list.

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Break the law and Apple may follow up by breaking into your iPhone, reports CNET, though if you represent the long arm of the law asking Cupertino to give you a hand (or would the proper term be demanding?), it sounds like you’ll have to wait in line: up to seven weeks, in seems.

Why? Because requests from law enforcement officials to hack into someone’s iPhone have been so overwhelming that Apple’s had to create a waiting list to manage them all.

Using a highly secure password on your phone (think long and completely random) should keep just about everyone at bay — but not someone with backdoor access. You knew there were rumors of a backdoor on the iPhone, right? Still, even if those rumors haven’t been wildly exaggerated, it sounds like there’s a significant waiting period to enlist Apple’s help.

Cnet unearthed court documents revealing that an agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) tried for three months last summer to find someone “with the forensic capabilities to unlock” an iPhone 4S. Failing that, the agent turned to Apple for help in a case involving a Kentucky man accused of distributing crack cocaine. But according to case opinion filed by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, the ATF was “placed on a waiting list” by Cupertino — a waiting list with an up to seven-week delay, says the ATF agent, claiming he was told this by someone in Apple’s legal department. Cnet isn’t sure how long the process ultimately took, but notes it “appears to have been at least four months.”

As Ars Technica notes, it’s not clear how much information Apple can access by hacking an iPhone (it’s much easier to get at data replicated to the cloud), but the ATF agent claimed in a sworn statement that Apple “has the capabilities to bypass the security software” on the iPhone, and could “download the contents of the phone to an external memory device” (like a USB key).

Apple, as you’d expect, isn’t commenting on the matter, but it’s interesting to note what may be transpiring behind the scenes here, with Apple’s help so in demand it’s apparently stymying law enforcement efforts for months (to say nothing of the Fourth Amendment questions such efforts raise).