Did you know it’s possible to make an iPhone to lock itself for years, even decades? And it’s so simple a toddler can do it. In fact, one already did.
A 2-year-old boy got his hands on his mother’s iPhone after she stepped out to run an errand and left the phone at home. When she returned, her phone was locked for 25,113,676 minutes—about 47 years and nine months, according to kankanews.com, who identified the woman only as Miss Lu of Jiading, a Shanghai suburb.
“I couldn’t really wait for 47 years and tell my grandchild it was your father’s mistake,” the mother said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Apple iPhones have a security feature that locks the phone for an increasing amount of time if one keeps inputting the wrong password. The lock time starts short, but gets longer with more failed attempts, eventually reaching lifetime proportions.
Lu took the phone to an Apple store, but the clerk told her the phone would need a factory reset, which would wipe all data on it. The mother was hesitant as she had important information on the phone, like photos, correspondence, and contacts.
She tried to wait a month and see what would happen, but the phone uncompromisingly continued the nearly 48-year countdown.
This wasn’t the first time an iPhone ended up locked for decades. Technician Wei Chunlong recalled he’d seen phones locked up even for over 80 years.
The case highlights the pitfalls on the path to balancing convenience and security. It also, more specifically, highlighted the importance of backing up the data from one’s phone. If Lu had backed up her phone regularly, a factory reset would likely pose a much smaller loss.
But even Apple security can be broken through. In February 2016, the FBI obtained a court order directing Apple to create software that would allow authorities to access the password-protected phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the killers in the mass shooting of San Bernardino, California on Dec. 2.
But Apple refused, saying such software would compromise security for all users, since the company would not be able to guarantee the software wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Still, the FBI found its own way to access files on the iPhone, reportedly in collaboration with Israeli data extraction company Cellebrite.
Cellebrite has been providing the FBI with decryption technology since 2013 and has been working with law enforcement, military, intelligence, security, and government authorities in over 90 countries, according to Ynetnews.