The Homeland Security Department is capable of overriding iPhone security, a New York case in the fall of last year revealed. In a brief exchange with attorneys during a hearing in October, Judge James Orenstein said he’d found testimony in another case that the Homeland Security Department “is in possession of technology that would allow its forensic technicians to override the pass codes security feature on the subject iPhone and obtain the data contained therein.”
That revelation, which went largely unnoticed at the time, seemed to undercut the government’s central argument that it needed Apple to unlock a protected iPhone. Currently, Apple is in a dispute with the federal government as it refuses to aid in the process of unlocking San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone.
“Even if [Homeland Security] agents did not have the defendant’s pass code, they would nevertheless have been able to obtain the records stored in the subject iPhone using specialized software,” the judge said. “Once the device is unlocked, all records in it can be accessed and copied.”