Apple to close iPhone security loophole used by police


Apple is about to make it much harder for law enforcement agencies to gain access to information on iPhones. Eventually, the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid a third party $900,000 to hack the phone.

Apple plans to send out a software update to iPhone users that will make the smartphone's charging and data port inoperative an hour after the phone has been locked. To transfer data to or from the iPhone using the port, a person would first need to enter the phone's password.

Apple said Wednesday that it's closing a security loophole that many law enforcement agencies use to break into phones and other devices.

Apple said the new features are not created to frustrate law enforcement but prevent any bypassing of encryption by good or bad actors. Undoubtedly, researchers and police vendors will find new ways to break into phones, and Apple will then look to patch those vulnerabilities.

"We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don't design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs", said Apple. That frustrated police and prosecutors who could not pull data from smartphones, even with a warrant.

Apple has insisted that the new security measure is primarily aimed at protecting users in despotic countries, not at making law enforcement's job more hard.

The two sides fought in court for a month. It's entirely plausible that Apple would switch that end from USB-A over to USB-C while leaving the Lightning port on the other end intact in order to continue reaping the benefits in accessory licensing.

That solution should thwart iPhone cracking devices like those made by GrayShift and Cellebrite.

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Law enforcement and security teams are unlikely to be the only people affected. iPhone peripherals have industrial and medical uses - and DJs had better not wander too far from the decks. The data on the device is encrypted and can not be pulled off without cooperation from Apple or the phone's owner - or possibly by using a corpse's fingerprint. After the update, this ruse will no longer work.

The FBI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Opening locked iPhones through these methods has become more common, law enforcement officials said.

Federal agencies including the FBI, DEA, State Department, Secret Service and least five states already have the GrayKey device or are in the process of obtaining it.

Police across the country are purchasing a tool called GrayKey.

The encryption on smartphones only applies to data stored exclusively on the phone.

Apple, however, has seen an uptick from the USA government in seeking information from its devices or accounts.