Google, Apple can unlock smartphones unencrypted smartphones: report

Google and Apple can and will unlock smartphones and tablets on orders of a court, if the devices were not encrypted, according to a report from the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The report, which describes how information can be extracted from smartphones and other Android or iOS devices for law enforcement purposes when the owner declines permission, explains that it was possible for Apple to reset a locked phone with physical access to the device and Google could also do the same remotely.

The report said the unlocking without the permission of the owner by the companies could be done when the device was not encrypted. Apple had enabled default encryption in September 2014 with iOS 8 with a passcode set by user, which meant unlocking of a device to access the data on it was not possible without knowing the user's passcode.

According to data from Apple, 67 per cent of Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users ran iOS 9, 24 per cent used iOS 8, which meant 9 per cent of users were on iOS 7 or earlier.

However, Android smartphones could be more readily unlocked given that encryption was only available on the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS.

In fact, 37.8 per cent of Google devices ran the Android 4.4 KitKat - the largest share. According to experts in the field, Google could remotely reset passcodes on a total 74 per cent of all Android phones.