Security experts disagree that the government even needs Apple’s help to access the data on Farook’s iPhone. For example, the “chip off” technique would involve physically removing the flash memory from the phone and cloning it. The government currently can’t brute-force Farook’s four-digit passcode since iOS 9 has an Erase Data feature that, if enabled, could wipe the phone after 10 incorrect attempts. Using the chip-off method, investigators could try 10 passcodes, then try 10 more with a fresh copy of the flash storage. It’s a long, delicate, and risky procedure that experts say usually results in a destroyed phone. But it does run directly counter to the government’s repeated claims that its hands are absolutely tied without Apple’s help.
The first hearing in this case is scheduled for March 22, the day after Apple will announce its latest round of new products. Apple first received the court order on February 16, and responded with a motion to dismiss on February 26. Last week, other tech companies, organizations, and security experts filed amicus briefs and friend-of-the-court letters supporting either Apple or the government.
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