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Father asks Apple's Tim Cook to unlock deceased son's iPhone
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Apr 1, 2016, 07:55 PM
 
Apple is being asked to get past the security of an iPhone to allow access to data stored inside, but this time from an individual instead of a law enforcement agency. An Italian father has written to CEO Tim Cook for assistance to unlock an iPhone 6, one owned by his deceased 13-year-old son during the last few months of his life, so that they can retrieve photographs, video, and anything else that can help preserve the memory of their child.

A letter from Leonardo Fabbretti about his son Dama, quoted by the AFP for The Guardian, states "I cannot give up. Having lost my Dama, I will fight to have the last two months of photos, thoughts, and words which are held hostage in his phone. I think what's happened should make you think about the privacy policy adopted by your company. Although I share your philosophy in general, I think Apple should offer solutions for exceptional cases like mine."

Dama was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2013, passing away in September last year, and had access to the iPhone for almost nine months before his death. The father claims he was given access to the device's storage via Touch ID, but since the phone was turned off when it was found, it requested a passcode after being powered back on, a code the father didn't have.

The situation is similar to the FBI's battle with Apple over the iPhone used in the San Bernardino attack, with the phone set to delete data automatically after ten failed attempts at the passcode. Unlike the FBI, which eventually managed to get into the device by other means, Mr Fabbretti is left asking Apple for mercy instead of going through the courts. Apple technical support was allegedly contacted by Fabbretti, but he was advised there was nothing the company can do to help get past the encryption.

Cellebrite, the same company said to be used by the FBI to access the phone in the center of the San Bernardino row, has apparently offered to try and open the phone for the father, for free. It is unknown if Fabbretti has taken up the offer, but he has asked for Apple to donate to Ethiopia or set up a grant for research into privacy issues if the photographs cannot be retrieved at all.
     
Inkling
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Apr 2, 2016, 07:59 AM
 
This case is far from unique. Family members often make the same request for passwords to social websites etc. One solution is for each of use to maintain a record of all our passwords that our relatives access after our death. One of my brother-in-laws did that and, after he died, his wife found that, as long as she had his passwords, she could continue to use accounts he had set up (i.e. frequent flyer miles). In some cases, however, it might be good to do what the military does when soldiers die in combat. Someone in their company goes through all their belongings before it's sent back, culling out anything likely to hurt the family. Some secrets are best kept secret.
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lkrupp
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Apr 2, 2016, 09:52 AM
 
There are, of course, many heart rending stories out there about the desire to get into a loved one's device after death. There are, of course, many stories about law enforcement's desire to get into a suspect's device to obtain evidence. But a device is either secure or it is not and allowing a back door for access makes every device insecure. No matter how much the FBI insists they will protect the technique used to crack the San Bernardino iPhone that exploit WILL get out eventually. In fact the hacker community will be redoubling their efforts to find it on their own now that they know it exists. No iPhone will be safe after that.
     
And.reg
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Apr 2, 2016, 05:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post
One solution is for each of use to maintain a record of all our passwords that our relatives access after our death.
Apple (and most other companies) say, in plain English, "never share your password with anyone."
     
Charles Martin
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Apr 3, 2016, 02:49 AM
 
And.reg: this is completely not the same thing as creating a vault or some document that the family can access in the case of death or an emergency. This is surely obvious to you, so I'm not sure what the point of your comment is.
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And.reg
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Apr 3, 2016, 09:29 PM
 
What does some "family vault" have to do with this? How does one even make a family-only password vault?
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Apr 4, 2016, 03:25 AM
 
It's pretty simple. You put *everything* in an app like 1Password or PasswordWallet (Selznick) and seal up an envelope with the master password in a fire safe or maybe better file it with your will (as that's a super well established method for this kind of thing). So long as you backup/archive and adapt this should technology change enough that you switch to a different solution, problem solved.

It's actually a good practice anyway. For example, I have instructions for my business as well, such that a couple of responsible parties, upon my death, would be instructed on how to get access/account info to my clients. Not doing so would be kind of irresponsible, similar or worse to not having backups.

I suppose most people are just too distracted to care about this kind of thing (which is why a lot of people start thinking about backups after they lose data, too). Maybe I'm just odd, or maybe it's that I worked in IT operations for many years.
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Charles Martin
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Apr 4, 2016, 11:11 AM
 
Not to give them a free plug, but the folks at 1Password have a $5/month service (which also covers the cost of 1PW installs on all the relevant devices) called 1Password for Families that covers *exactly* this. Selected access to certain logins, restricted ones to others, and an "in case of emergency" type vault can be set up as well. I predict we'll see other companies -- perhaps including Apple -- addressing this as well in the next few years, as it is clearly a growing issue.
Charles Martin
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pigmode
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Apr 5, 2016, 01:53 AM
 
Sad as it may sound in this case, its basically parents' responsibility to maintain a level of control over a minor child's devices. Period. This might or might not spur Apple to provide more education for like situations in the future, but the reason this is getting air time is not the father's plea in itself, but its relation to the FBI case. The News industry loves to stir the pot for the headline.
     
   
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