Apple Undercuts Law Enforcement Tool for Breaking into Devices

Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) will change its IPhone settings to undercut the most popular means for law enforcement to crack iPhones.

The company is hoping to protect all customers and head off further spread of the attack technique.

Apple will change their default settings in the iPhone operating system to cut communication through the USB port when the phone hasn’t been unlocked for an hour. The USB port is how machines connect and crack security provisions that limit how many password guesses can be made before the phone locks them out. However, now they’ll be unable to run code on the device after an hour is up.

The change in settings will protect customers in countries where law enforcement obtains and tries to break into devices with fewer legal restrictions than under U.S law. Apple noted that criminals and spies often use the same techniques as law enforcement.

Apple began working on this USB port issue even before learning it was a favorite technique of law enforcement. After learning of the technique, Apple reviewed the phone’s operating system and improved its security.  

Apple told Reuters that the setting switch had been documented in beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS12 and will be made permanent in the next general release.

With this change in settings, law enforcement will have an hour or less to break into the device. This could possibly cut access by as much as 90 percent. Though, this could cause an increase of device cracking sales.

This new setting can cause controversy and draw criticism from U.S law enforcement who have been engaged in campaigns for legislation or other ways to make technology companies to maintain access into customer’s communication devices. Apple has been the most blatant opponent of those demands after a court issue in 2016 where FBI forced apple to break into an iPhone used by a killer in San Bernardino.

Recently, FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed that the Bureau had been unable to break into over 7,000 phones in 2017. Last month, the true number was less than a third as high.

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