By William D. Cohanlong Read
The entrance to the radiofrequency isolation chamber, near the middle of the Lefkowitz Building in lower Manhattan, looks like an artifact from the Apollo program, shielded by two airtight, metallic doors that are specially designed to block electromagnetic waves. Inside the room, against one wall, are dozens of Apple iPhones and iPads in various states of disrepair. Some have cracked glass fronts or broken cases. Others look like they’ve been fished out of a smoldering campfire. Of course, the devices are not there to be fixed. They are evidence confiscated during the commission of alleged crimes.
The district attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance Jr., and the city’s cybercrime unit have built this electronic prison for a very specific purpose: to try, using brute force algorithms, to extract the data on the phones before their owners try to wipe the contents remotely.