Apple’s (AAPL) conviction of protecting user information just took a level up with its latest update, in a move that could put law enforcement agencies in further misery. Currently, police gain access to data on iPhones through their Lightning port, a feature that is widely seen as a loophole. The Cupertino, California-based company will now bring in a new feature called USB Restricted Mode to the iOS software and plug this loophole.
An iPhone on this mode will disable the data port an hour after the phone is locked. Though charging can still be done, the user will have to key in the password to transfer data through the port. The new update will likely be available in iOS 12 as it comes out later this year.
Law enforcement agencies have widely been using popular third-party hacking tools to access devices of suspected criminals. If you recall, Apple had resisted when the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanded the company to unlock an iPhone that was used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino shooting case. However, FBI later unlocked the phone using third-party tools.
This update could invigorate a cold war between Apple and the US government. Technology companies including Apple have repeatedly been asked by the government to have backdoors on their devices for encrypting and other security measures.
Apple’s latest update could put law enforcement agencies in further misery.
With the latest update, law enforcement agencies are left scrambling for any other hitherto undiscovered methods to retrieve data from iPhones. In addition, the expenses incurred by the agencies to unlock iPhones have also been increasing over the years. The Indiana State Police used a $15,000-device, which it purchased from Grayshift in March, to unlock 96 iPhones this year in various cases with a warrant, according to the New York Times.
Cellebrite, an Israeli forensics firm acquired by Japan’s Sun Corp in 2006, could unlock iPhones at a cost of several thousand dollars.