Federal authorities have tried nearly 40,000 different passwords to access a cellphone from developer Robert “Bob” Morgan that was seized in a May 2018 search.
That leaves more than 960,000 possible passwords left to try.
However, Morgan now wants the cellphone back.
“Mr. Morgan has been deprived of his iPhone and stored data for 19 months,” his attorney, Joel Cohen, wrote in a Jan. 2 motion asking a judge to order the return of the phone. “At this point, any interest the government may have in maintaining custody of the phone to undertake a review of its contents at some point is clearly outweighed by Mr. Morgan’s right to use his property.”
Morgan, one of the region’s most prominent developers, is accused of bank fraud and is awaiting trial. He and others with his companies were indicted last year and accused of fabricating information to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans.
The trial is scheduled for 2021.
During the 2018 search of Morgan’s corporate offices, federal authorities seized computers and iPhones. They have been unable to crack into one Morgan iPhone — the one Morgan wants returned.
“The Morgan iPhone uses a six-digit passcode to access the phone,” Thomas Germershausen. a federal housing finance agent, wrote in a Jan. 17 affidavit.
“With 10 potential characters per digit, there are 1,000,000 possible combinations,” he wrote. “Moreover, the Morgan iPhone’s hardware only allows one passcode attempt every 20 to 40 minutes. As a result, the government’s only way to access the iPhone is by trying two to three randomly-generated passcodes every hour until the correct passcode is identified.”
Authorities are using a phone access method known as “brute force” from Gray Shift, a company authorities often turn to for help breaking into iPhones. The computer program uses different passwords until successful.
Authorities say they have been attempting to access the phone since May 2018.
“There is currently no way to know when the government will be able to access the Morgan iPhone,” Germershausen wrote.
Authorities say the whole issue could easily be resolved if Morgan would do something he and his lawyers so far have refused to do — provide the passcode.
“If Morgan provides the government with the correct passcode, it could image (its contents) and return the Morgan iPhone promptly,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing.