Apple recently announced plans to update iPhone settings to disable the current most popular method for law enforcement officials to gain access to locked phones.
Apple recently told Reuters that they plan to update iPhone security features to protect all iPhone users from having their devices unlocked by either police or criminals. Apple said that a new update will enable a setting that cuts off communication between the phone and a computer via USB port when the phone hasn’t been unlocked within the past hour.
Connection via USB to an unlocking device is how forensic companies GrayShift, Cellebrite and many others gain access to locked phones, Apple’s planned update will mean that these companies will no longer be able to access the phone via USB unless it has been unlocked by the user within the past hour. Forensic companies have marketed their unlocking devices to law enforcement in multiple countries, offering to sell the devices for thousands of dollars or unlock a single cell phone for as little as $50.
Apple said this new security update is an attempt to protect users in countries where citizens are not afforded the same privacy rights as those in the U.S. and are at higher risk of having their phones taken and unlocked. Apple notes that it’s not just law enforcement that uses unlocking devices on iPhones, but that criminals also use similar methods, this new update would hopefully prevent the theft and unlocking of iPhones in the future.
Apple 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.”
The new security setting has been visible in the beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS12 but the company plans to make it a permanent feature in future stable releases.