Apple is set to introduce a new security feature with the release of iOS 11.4 which is sure to anger law enforcement.
It’s called USB Restricted Mode, and it performs one simple task. If an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad are not unlocked for a week, data transfers using the Lightning port will be disabled. To re-enable them, simply unlock the phone using a passcode or biometrics.
Security company Elcomsoft noticed the existence of USB Restricted Mode from reading Apple documentation and looking at iOS developer betas. Testing revealed that data transfers are blocked after seven days without unlocking a device, but charging the device is still possible. Even connecting your device to a computer won’t see the device recognized once the restriction is active.
Elcomsoft believes the introduction of USB Restricted Mode is “aimed squarely at law enforcement.” It means they will only have seven days to attempt to unlock an iOS device to extract the information it contains. A number of companies offer law enforcement hardware unlocking services. Even if their techniques still work with iOS 11.4, successfully unlocking a device will be a race against time now.
For iPhone and iPad owners, it means your device is about to become even more secure. For law enforcement, it’s an extra frustration when trying to gain access to data that could be essential to an investigation.