UK cops have found a primitive, yet effective way to beat iPhone encryption

As we learned from this year’s titanic struggle between Apple and the FBI, once an iPhone is locked, procuring the data can prove problematic for law enforcement agencies.

Well officers at Scotland Yard have come up with a novel solution to the problem; mug the suspect while they are using the unlocked handset.

The tactic proved crucial in helping detectives from Operation Falcon take down a credit card fraud racket, the BBC reports.

After suspecting Gabriel Yew was using an iPhone to communicate with members of a criminal enterprise, surveillance officers followed him and waited for him to unlock the phone before swiping it from his grasp.

Related: Snooper’s Charter becomes law – What you need to know

This way, the officer was able to continually swipe through the menu screens to prevent an auto lock, while downloading data. This included orders for fake credit cards and links to over 100 other suspects.

The challenges of pin code access and encryption on some phones make it harder to access evidence in a timely fashion than ever before,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Gould.

“Officers had to seize Yew’s phone from him in the street. This evidence was crucial to the prosecution.”

As a result of the ‘mugging,’ Yew pleaded guilty to fraud and weapons offenses and was, this week, sentenced to a five and a half year stretch.

The question of iPhone encryption has been a hot topic all year, following Apple’s refusal to co-operate with the FBI’s efforts to access data on the phone of a San Bernardino shooter.

The Met seemingly has a solution that by-passes Apple’s defences, but following the passing of the Snooper’s Charter into UK law earlier this week, street muggings like the one that took down Yew may be less necessary.

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