June 14 (UPI) — Apple is testing a new security feature that would make it harder for hackers — and law enforcement — to retrieve data from iPhones.
The new feature, called USB restricted mode, prevents the phone’s USB port from being used for anything but charging an hour after the device has been locked.
Law enforcement officials say the change would hinder investigations.
Chuck Cohen, who leads an Indiana State Police task force on Internet crimes against children, told The New York Times the update would put children’s safety at risk.
“If we go back to the situation where we again don’t have access, now we know directly all the evidence we’ve lost and all the kids we can’t put into a position of safety,” Cohen said.
Apple’s battle with the privacy issue stems back to 2016 when a federal judge ruled the U.S. Department of Justice does not have legal authority to force Apple to develop a program to circumvent security features on a smartphone related to a drug-trafficking case in New York.
U.S. Magistrate James Orenstein issued the ruling in a New York court, saying the government’s order places an “unreasonable burden” on the iPhone maker.
An Apple spokesman said that the software update helps prevent hackers from targeting personal information stored on smartphones and any impact on law enforcement was an unintended side effect.
“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,” an Apple statement read.