Apple has just announced that it’s planning to update iOS to patch an exploit police has been using to hack into iPhones. “GrayKey” is a hacking tool used by police and other law enforcement agencies across the United States and uses “an undisclosed technique” that sidesteps the default disk encryption in the iPhone. According to a report by The Verge, at least five agencies and five states are currently using GrayKey. As part of the planned update, the company will launch a new feature that will make GrayKey of no use “in the majority of cases”.
This move is likely to bring back the standoff between Apple and law enforcement about encryption. The report points out that after the update, iPhones will “cut off all communication” from the USB port if the device has not been unlocked in the last one hour. The USB Port can only be used for charging the iPhone after that hour. Apple will call this new feature “USB Restricted Mode” and the company is already testing this new feature in the developer beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12.
Watch: Apple iOS 12 features
This new feature will increasingly reduce the time available for law enforcement to unlock the iPhone devices to gather any important evidence. Apple has not clarified if it will ship the “USB Restricted Mode” with iOS 12. The report goes on to add that “USB Restricted Mode” will close off a number of attacks that are similar to how GrayKey functions.
Apple is looking at this update from a mere security point of view, where it will continue to improve its software in terms of stability and features instead of issuing the update specifically to stop law enforcement agencies from using “GrayKey”.