Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. has set up a $10 million high-tech forensics lab dedicated to cracking the iPhone,media reported. The lab is understood to be equipped with powerful hardware and a team of technical experts, many of whom are veterans.
Vance’s team is understood to have released thousands of iPhones at the lab, which are at various stages of being cracked. In addition to the iPhone, there’s a supercomputer that can generate 26 million random passwords per second, a robot that can remove memory chips without heating, and tools dedicated to repairing damaged devices.
All iPhones are connected to a computer that generates a password. Staff at the agency, including director Steven Moran, are also trying to narrow the possibilities with birthdays, important dates and other information that can be used in every specific situation of the iPhone password.
Vance, a leading critic of Apple, has called on the government to introduce anti-encryption legislation to give law enforcement officials easier access to iPhones that require criminal investigations. According to him, 82 per cent of the smartphones entering the department are locked, and his cybercrime lab can crack “about half” of the devices.
The frequency of Apple’s software updates makes the process even more difficult. In response, Vance said: “This issue, especially from a law enforcement perspective, is first and foremost a matter of time.”
Vance said it was “unfair” that Apple and Google could block law enforcement from accessing smartphones. He said law enforcement had been given the responsibility to “protect the public”, but Apple and Google had blocked that path. In Vance’s view, there should be a “balance” between protecting user privacy and bringing justice to victims of crime.
Apple’s view is that it can provide Cloud data without cracking the iPhone, but Vance points out that serious offenders don’t have iCloud backups, and users can choose to turn off data synchronization.
Vance says he’s not complaining about encryption, but his lab isn’t the answer because most Americans can’t afford the New York Cyber Lab.