APPLE HAS CONFIRMED that it'll close a loophole that allows law enforcement to exfiltrate data from locked iPhones.
The 'USB Restricted Mode' function, originally tipped to arrive in Apple's battery-slurping iOS 11.4 update, will see Apple disable an iPhone's Lightning port if it hasn't been unlocked for a seven-day period, limiting its use to solely charging.
The feature was first discovered ElcomSoft's Oleg Afonin earlier this year, who noted that an iPhone with USB Restricted Mode enabled won't bring up the usual 'Trust this computer' prompt until the device is unlocked using a passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
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.
Apple this week confirmed that the much-talked-about feature, which has been present in developer betas for both iOS 12 and iOS 11.4.1, will be released to the public in a future software update.
"At Apple, we put the customer at the centre of everything we design," the company said in a statement. "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."
Apple's incoming USB Restricted Mode feature was first uncovered days after a new iPhone unlocking tool called GreyKey hit the market, which promised 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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