Apple’s iOS 11.4 is currently in beta testing, and a security firm called ElcomSoft has discovered a very interesting new feature on the books for iPhones and iPads. It seems the company is going to roll out a tool called USB Restricted Mode which will disable the Lightning port if the device hasn’t been unlocked for 7 days.
USB Restricted Mode was actually present in the iOS 11.3 beta as well, but was removed from the public release for unknown reasons. Apple describes it as a way to improve security, requiring an iOS device to be unlocked while connected to an accessory at least once a week.
Basically, if an iPhone hasn’t been opened up with Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode for 7 days, no one will be able to connect a Lightning cable to the handset and hack into the smartphone. The only thing the port will be good for is charging.
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This makes things a lot more complicated for law enforcement and crooks. Both rely on advanced hacking techniques which can take several days. There was no time limit before, so it didn’t matter how fast the methods were. Of course, some might say that 7 days is too long and people should be given shorter options.
Apple may have decided to implement this security restriction in the wake of the San Bernardino tussle with the FBI which was dragged out over months and eventually ended with the agency unlocking the iPhone without the brand’s help. The same scenario can’t be played out again since the iPhone in question would have just shut down the Lightning port after 7 days.
It’s not clear if USB Restricted Mode is enabled by default or requires iPhone owners to enable it manually. We’ll find out as and when iOS 11.4 arrives in the coming days or weeks ahead.