APPLE'S ONGOING EFFORTS to stop law enforcement from accessing data stored on iPhones could see the firm introduce a 'USB Restricted Mode' in the next version of iOS.
Originally discovered in iOS 11.4 beta code by ElcomSoft's Oleg Afonin, the feature disables the Lightning port after if an iPhone hasn't been unlocked for a seven-day period, limiting its use to just charging the handset.
This should, in theory, prevent data stored on the device from being harvested when plugged into a computer via a USB-to-Lightning cable, in turn making it more difficult for cops to extract data from stolen or seized iPhones.
Afonin also notes that plugging the device into a computer after USB Restricted Mode has been enabled won't bring up the usual 'Trust this computer' prompt until the user iPhone is unlocked using a passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
According to Apple's developer documentation: "To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must connect an accessory via Lightning connector to the device while unlocked - or enter your device passcode while connected - at least once a week."
The same feature was first found in a beta version of iOS 11.3 in March, days after a new iPhone unlocking tool called GreyKey hit the market, which promises to help law enforcement unlock iPhones in a fraction of the time it usually takes.
According to Malwarebytes, the $15,000 device can unlock iPhones as recent as the iPhone X running iOS 11.3 and is capable of cracking six-digit passcodes in roughly three days.
Apple's beef with law enforcement first surfaced in 2016, when the FBI demanded that Apple unlock an iPhone 5C that belonged to one of the San Bernardino gunmen killed by police.
Apple, naturally, refused, saying in at the time: "The US government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand."
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