Gadgets

Apple Tells Judge Even They Can’t Unlock Its New Phones

In what sounds like a challenge for the world's most ambitious hackers, Apple has stated that the encrypted data on newer iPhones can't be accessed by anyone - even by Apple themselves.

The comment was made at a recent US court hearing, in which the US Department of Justice had requested Apple help prosecutors open a seized iPhone. The presiding judge asked for Apple's input on the case - but the tech company replied that 90 per cent of any of its devices running iOS 8 or iOS 9 cannot be unlocked. 

The device in question is running an older version of Apple's mobile operating system, which could be unlocked, but the company are refusing to do so. 

"Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand," the company said in its briefing to the judge - essentially a big, fat metaphorical middle finger until the legal power that be forced them to unlock the device.

So why is it apparently impossible to unlock an iPhone running iOS 8 (or newer)? Apple chief executive Tim Cook recently took to the stage of Wall Street Journal's WSJDLive conference to explain that they had left no "back doors" in the operating system's encryption software - so they couldn't help security services if they even wanted to (which they don't). 

"We think encryption is a must in today's world. No-one should have to decide privacy or security," said Cook. "We should be smart enough to do both."

The only way to unlock new phones is to have the user reveal their unique encryption key (or PIN, if you don't talk tech), or capture them using snoop software installed on the phone remotely - something that the UK government are looking to legalise for the likes of GCHQ and British spies.

So - if you're rocking iOS 7 and fear having your device unlocked by Apple or someone malicious, you might want to consider updating to the new iOS 9. Because, privacy.