A reader, Rick, asks, “A friend’s brother died suddenly. The family needs access to his iPhone and MacBook but have no idea what his passwords are. Is there a procedure to request Apple to unlock the devices? Is there a third party that can do this?”
The family probably won’t enjoy hearing this, but if a person’s devices are all locked down with passwords and passcodes, it’s going to be very difficult to access any data from each and Apple won’t help bypass a passcode, especially on its iPhones.
If the MacBook doesn’t have an overall login password, it may be possible to unlock the phone, access iTunes purchases or get into an iCloud account via the deceased brother’s email software or through “Find My Phone.” And the contents of the phone could be accessed through a prior backup via iTunes. But that’s assuming the MacBook is accessible. If both devices are on lockdown and there’s no other ways to access an email account, the options dwindle.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re completely out of ideas; visit the Genius Bar or to email Apple at iTunesStoreSupport@apple.com to see if there’s any other ways to reset the passwords. As for third-party options, there are programs that purport to be able to hack an iPhone password; Apple of course doesn’t support this. The entire issue gets into murky ethical territory; your friend’s family needs to ask whether the brother would really want the entire contents of his phone and computer exposed to family. The object lesson is: leave important passwords behind for family members in a will or other document before it’s too late.
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