Why is Law Enforcement on this iPhone Waiting List?

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fischerfotos/How secure is Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone encryption? Apparently it is secure enough that government agencies are being placed on a waiting list to get assistance from Apple to unlock its devices.

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According to a report on CNET, one ATF agent spent three fruitless months inquiring about decryption assistance from various other government agencies. After failing to find someone “with the forensic capabilities to unlock” an iPhone 4S, the agent went to the Cupertino-based company and was placed on the waiting list. The typical waiting period on the list is almost two months.

Although Apple’s iPad and iPhone devices have strong encryption software, Apple does possess the capabilities to bypass its own devices’ security. An ATF affidavit examined by CNET reveals that Apple can transfer an iPhone user’s data to an external hard drive which can then be given to law enforcement.

Whereas Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) alerts users by resetting the passwords on its phones before giving them to law enforcement, Apple’s method doesn’t alert users that their phone has been compromised. However, presuming that the phone is legally obtained with a warrant, it may not be a practical concern whether or not the phone’s security alerts the user.

Although it is apparent that Apple has its own methods for circumventing its security software, it isn’t clear if this is done through a software “backdoor” or if Apple is simply better at unlocking their own devices using the same decryption methods that government agencies use.

Due to the growing use of encryption software, FBI director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011 that, “A growing gap exists between the statutory authority of law enforcement to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to intercept those communications.”

Apple closed at $452.97 on Friday after shedding $3.80, or 0.83 percent, from its price at the opening bell. Here’s how Apple has traded so far over the past week.

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