Apple is making cracking iPhones more difficult for both criminals and police alike.
Called USB Restricted Mode, it will lock down data access via the Lightning port if the iPhone hasn't been unlocked in the past hour, which is currently set to one week.
Championing Customer Privacy
According to Apple, the new measure isn't meant to hinder law enforcement in investigations that involve iPhones. Instead, it's simply to protect customers from a vulnerability that puts their personal data at risk of being accessed by criminals and whatnot.
"We're constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don't design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs," the company tells Reuters.
In addition, the news outlet reports that the Cupertino brand says it's to provide security for its customers in countries where police and crooks can easily take their devices.
The change in the operating system's default settings turned up in the beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12, and it'll roll out in an upcoming general release. As a side note, USB Restricted Mode showed up in the beta version of iOS 11.3, but it was redacted when it was released to the public. It reappeared in the beta version of iOS 11.4 afterward.
Apple's Previous Run-In With The Law
Back in 2016, the FBI demanded a special software that could bypass the encryption technology of an iPhone involved in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, from Apple. However, the latter refused to do so. The case was settled when a third party the Department of Justice found was able to crack the iPhone in question.
The Bottom Line
The update won't stop law enforcement — and by the same token, criminals — from accessing iPhone data without the user's content. It's just placing a restrictive time frame. Police and other individuals will have to be quick if they want to break into an iPhone, which could give rise to portable cracking devices. All that said, it's hard to deny that officers will have one more thing to worry about when the update takes place.
For the record, GrayShift and Cellebrite are among the notable outfits that provide peripherals that could circumvent the security measures of iPhones.