Apple is updating iOS to block police from unlocking iPhones

By Talha Saqib on
June 14, 2018
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The Cupertino giant has recently unveiled many new features for the next iOS in this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). iOS 12 bring itself with Siri shortcuts, grouped notifications, Memojis, and more updates. For security, however, Apple is taking a step further by introducing a new mode to prevent the law enforcement to break into the iPhones, namely USB Restricted Mode.

In past, there have been some conflicts between Apple and FBI regarding the unlocking of iPhones, like the one in San Bernardino’s shooting where the tech giant declined to give access to the authorities making them hire a third-party to breach into the device. The law enforcement agencies deem the phone encryption as a serious public safety issue as the criminals using the protected devices could easily keep their data safe.

On the other side, the tech manufacturers highly disregard the idea of unlocking their devices for the police, as it could make things get out of their control. Previously, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that giving a backdoor to the authorities could have ‘chilling’ and ‘dangerous’ effect, as the use of the backdoor could go in wrong directions:

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

However, most of the time the agencies did get into the iPhones and other locked devices through the courtesy of tools like GrayKey and Cellebrite. But as reportedly, Apple has found a way to block such intrusions. The new USB Restricted mode will close the loophole that let these tools gain access to the iPhones.

According to BuzzFeed’s explanation, “With USB Restricted Mode on, iPhone users will need to enter their passcode every hour to maintain a USB connection for data transfer. [……] When this feature is turned on, the phone’s Lightning port is disabled for data transfer one hour after the phone is locked, but can still be used for charging with a power adapter. To transfer any data after that one-hour window has expired, whether via iTunes or other means, the device will require a passcode.”

Not to mention, Apple has mentioned of their doing the best ‘within their power’ to cooperate with the security agencies and that they respect the authorities. The firm writes, “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”

That said, the feature is available in iOS 12 beta mode. Earlier, it was present in the iOS 11.4 beta update as well but with more time period for requiring a passcode. Also, Apple hasn’t yet confirmed that this mode would be available on the full version of iOS 12 but the chances of its rolling out are high this time.

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