Apple Locks Itself Out of Devices with Passwords

Apple has tightened its technological security so not even the company can pry into a password-protected iPhone or iPad, a move meant to reassure the millions of people who are increasingly storing vital pieces of their lives on the devices.

The additional safeguard is part of Apple's latest mobile software, iOS 8, which the Cupertino, California, company released Wednesday. Apple Inc. revealed the stronger protection in a new section of its website that is prefaced with a letter from CEO Tim Cook who emphasized the company's "fundamental" commitment to privacy and security.

"Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers," Cook wrote. "We know that your trust doesn't come easy. That's why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it."

Apple is highlighting its heightened security following a mortifying episode that unfolded earlier this month after computer hackers broke into the online accounts of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities who stored copies of personal photos on the company's iCloud service.

Nude photos of Lawrence and other female stars were posted on various websites, causing some security experts to question whether Apple had taken adequate precautions to thwart hackers trying to break into user accounts.

Since the nude photos appeared, Apple has been stressing the need for its users to rely on passwords that are difficult to guess. It has also recommended the adoption of a security feature known as two-step verification that requires a special code sent to mobile phones to be entered along with a password to log into accounts.

Apple's inability to unlock password-protected smartphones and tablets could frustrate law enforcement officials who sometimes obtain court orders to vacuum personal data off the phones for potential evidence in criminal investigations.

The personal information will be blocked on more than...

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