Today Apple is closing a security loophole in iPhones and other iOS devices that enabled law enforcement to hack into criminals’ devices, inculding one of the San Bernadino killers.
They have introduced “Restricted USB Mode”, which will stop hackers from extracting data through an iPhone’s lightning port an hour after being locked. It is believed that this is how the FBI were able to read data from the iPhone belonging to a gunman involved in the shootings in San Bernadino.
Apple says this is part of their usual security reviews, and is not aimed at thwarting law enforcement but is to protect users from criminals.
This will protect iPhones from the iPhone hacking tool GreyKey.
The new default settings will have a feature Apple call a “USB restricted mode” which has been present in developer betas for both iOS 12 and iOS 11.4.1. With this feature, all communication through a Lightning port to USB connection will be blocked on unlocked and dormant devices.
US law enforcement uses a tool called a GrayKey, which is a small box with two Lightning cables that can unlock password encryptions on iPhones and extract data from iPhones. The Restricted USB Mode will cut off the GreyKey’s access.
Of course the cops believe this is aimed firmly at law enforcement, and will result in criminals and terrorists getting away with serious crimes.
“I think that privacy protections are on a collision course with responsible law enforcement actions to conduct legitimate investigations,” said Ronald Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI who is now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which raises money to defend officers accused of misconduct. “Terrorists or other criminal organizations will do something that’s heinous, in a way that is blocked from lawful law enforcement view. They will to some extent get away with it. We will lose lives, we will lose infrastructure in a big way, and then we will be having a different conversation.”