Apple has now confirmed that it will be plugging a security hole which allowed law enforecent officials to gain access to iPhones via USB-based hardware solutions such as the much talked about GrayKey box.
In a report by The New York Times, Apple confirmed that it would be adding a feature to an upcoming iOS release which would defeat such boxes.
This comes a week after the initial beta release of iOS 12 in which a new switch was discovered. When enabled – which it is by default – the switch ensures that an iOS device’s data connection is unavailable via its Lightning port if that device has not been unlocked within the past hour.
While power will still flow and the device can still be charged, no data connection will be available unless a PIN or passphrase is entered or, presumably, Face ID or Touch ID is used.
Apple said it was planning an iPhone software update that would effectively disable the phone’s charging and data port — the opening where users plug in headphones, power cables and adaptors — an hour after the phone is locked. In order to transfer data to or from the iPhone using the port, a person would first need to enter the phone’s password.
The popular GrayKey solution has been sold to many law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and uses a device’s Lightning port to brute force a passcode. This can often take place in as little as a few hours, although this move by Apple essentially means that any current GrayKey boxes are useless. Predictably, law enforcement is not happy at the move Apple is making with iOS 12.
Speaking to The New York Times, Chuck Cohen, who leads an Indiana State Police task force on internet crimes against children, said that Indiana State Police had unlocked new fewer than 96 iPhones using the box since 2017.
“If we go back to the situation where we again don’t have access, now we know directly all the evidence we’ve lost and all the kids we can’t put into a position of safety.”
It’s important to note that devices like GrayKey boxes are not solely used by law enforcement however, with this more aimed at ensuring unscrupulous people are also unable to gain access to iPhones, iPads and the data held on them.
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