While the FBI and Apple are tussling over whether Apple has to unlock the iPhone that belonged to San Bernadino shooter Syed RizwanFarook, you could have already unlocked your iPhone, even if you’ve forgotten your passcode.
In the San Bernadino case, the main problem is that the iPhone allows only a limited number of attempts at the correct password before wiping its data clean. The FBI fears that trying to unlock it will destroy whatever useful information the phone may contain about Farook, the shooting and wider terrorist networks.
Simple fixes — like syncing the phone to the cloud via Farook’s home wifi connection, then retrieving data from the cloud — are no longer available because a law enforcement agent in San Bernadino inadvertently reset the password during early attempts at opening the phone.
So the FBI is asking Apple to create software that will allow its team to bypass security measures.
Apply says that creating a “back door” or software that unlocks the phone, would not just open up this particular device but would make all iPhones more vulnerable to privacy intrusions. The tech industry has rallied in support of Apple.
Some 40 different companies and individuals — including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft — have filed briefs in favor of Apple’s position.
The lawsuit will likely take months or years to resolve, but meanwhile many experts are saying that the FBI could have easily unlocked the phone without Apple’s help. But what about ordinary people who forget their passcodes or who need to unlock a phone when a spouse or coworker is ill or disabled? Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a hacker to open an iPhone.
Here are five easy ways to do it:
Check the service record
Every time you take an iPhone in for service, you are required to provide your password to the technician. That password remains on record at the Apple store — and it’s not legally protected, so you can ask for it on your own behalf or on the behalf of others like a spouse or employee.
Try this emergency call hack
You can unlock your phone using the emergency call button.
Turn the phone on and go to the “emergency call” screen.
Hold down the power button until the power off screen appears.
When it appears, hit “cancel.”
Dial a three-digit number and click on the end call button before you are connected.
Put the phone into standby mode by holding the power button down.
Turn the phone on again by pressing the power button.
Press the power button for approximately three seconds, then press the Emergency Call button immediately before the phone brings up the power off slide screen.
Continuing to hold the Power button, you can now make calls, view and edit contacts and view and edit call history.
Do a hard restore
If you have access to the computer or wifi network that the phone is synced with, you can plug into iTunes to restore the phone. This will delete all apps, contact information, songs and other information from the phone, but you can restore it from the backup file that is on either the syncing computer or the cloud. The restore process disables the passcode, so the next time you use the phone, you will be asked to choose a new one.
Guess the password
There are over 10,000 possible four-digit passcodes for the iPhone, but according to one team of researchers, as many as 10% of users employ easily guessable ones like 1234, 0000, 2580 (the middle column of the keypad) or 1111. If you know the person who uses the phone, you can also try his or her four digit birthday, or a child’s name or birthday.
Look for a password cache or vault
If you have access to the phone owners’ computer, check for files with names like “passwords” or “iPhone.” Most people can’t remember all the passwords they use and have a record somewhere to help remind them. You can also look for password manager software on the host computer, which contains information about the passwords the owner uses.
If all else fails, a quick internet search turns up dozens of companies that unlock iPhones for a fee. The bottom line: if you’re forgotten your passcode, or need to open up your spouse or kids’ phone, you don’t need to sue Apple to do it.