DOJ unsurprisingly ignores Apple's encryption arguments

It seems that Apple and the US Department of Justice will once again be butting legal heads this Monday, a hearing that was supposedly set for October 22, over the two's favorite point of contention: encryption. The DOJ wants Apple to assist in unlocking an encrypted iPhone 5s. While Apple acknowledges that since the phone is still running something older than iOS 8, it can technically do so but has asked to court not to compel it to act. Naturally, the DOJ would have none of that.

At the heart of the matter is a drug case that has been brought before Brooklyn Federal Judge James Orenstein. The details of the case have finally come to light. The iPhone 5s happens to be the property of a certain Jun "Kevin" Feng who is charged with possession and distributing methamphetamine. According to prosecutors, someone sent the iPhone an "erase command" but luckily the smartphone wasn't connected to the Internet to do damage. Since the iPhone is encrypted, the DOJ wants Apple to unlock the phone without destroying the device's contents.

In responding to the judge's request for the company's input, Apple claimed that it was technically impossible for it to unlock any encrypted device running iOS 8 or later due to the fact that the encryption keys are not accessible to anyone except the user who set it. However, it did reveal that those running older versions can actually be cracked that way. Given this fact, the DOJ wants the judge to compel Apple to cooperate.

The federal government also presents several arguments disputing Apple's position, many of which have been criticized already by civil liberties advocates. The DOJ says that Apple's claim that doing such a forced unlocking would ruin its credibility has no basis in the law. In fact, it says that Apple has never objected to such an order in the past, implying that just because Apple complied before, it should do so again. Apple responds saying that in those past cases, it was not directly involved. Now, it has been pulled right in the middle of the case.

A hearing is set for October 26 where the two will appear before Jodge Orenstein to make their case. Considering there is actually no technical obstacle to Apple to comply, the DOJ might actually win this one. It shouldn't, however, expect to always come out victories. It was just lucky that the culprit didn't keep his iPhone up to date.

VIA: Ars Technica