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India claims to have tool to defeat iPhone encryption

The country's communications and IT minister says the government has a forensics tool that can handle smartphones, including Apple's.

The Indian government apparently has a way to handle encrypted smartphones, including the iPhone.
James Martin/CNET

India allegedly has a secret technology to decrypt iPhones.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India's communications and IT minister, said Friday that a tool for mobile forensics has been developed that can handle smartphones, including Apple's iPhone, according to the New Indian Express. Prasad didn't reveal details about how the tool works.

Earlier this year, the iPhone was at the center of a legal battle between Apple and the FBI. The government wanted Apple to help access a locked iPhone 5C used by one of two terrorists involved in a December attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead. Apple denied the government's request, even when faced with a court order. The showdown ended in late March when the feds bought a tool from a third party to bypass the phone's security.

Tech firms say that weakening encryption, which scrambles data so it can be read only by the intended person, violates the privacy of device owners. Law enforcement officials counter that encryption hinders their ability to access data in criminal investigations.

In 2010, BlackBerry ran into trouble in India and other countries that insisted on gaining access to encrypted customer data stored on the company's servers. BlackBerry argued that it did not possess the encryption keys and thus could not provide access to the data.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.