January 20, 2019

Apple steps up encrytion to thwart police cracking of iPhones

14 June 2018, 10:16 | Cameron Gross

Image Apple began working on the USB issue before learning it was popularly used by police

Image    Apple began working on the USB issue before learning it was popularly used by police

If you've been anxiously waiting for Apple to bring USB-C to its smartphones in some form, it looks like you'll have to replenish your patience once more.

With the roll-out of iOS 11.4, we saw Apple plug up a security loophole in the iPhone Lightning port, but the Cupertino firm has now announced that iOS 12 will take this fix to the extreme. After that, the port's functionality is limited to charging the device, and therefore stops hacking tools from accessing the device's data. Rumors have popped up that this year's iPhones will include Lightning-to-USB cables, and now a report from DigiTimes suggests that 2019 devices will include USB Type-C on the phones themselves. However, there will be no change to the port in the iPhones launched later this year.

"We're constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product", a company spokesman wrote in the statement. This has allowed law enforcement officials and others to easily gain access to pretty much any iPhone.

"We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don't design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs", Apple told Reuters. 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.

The conflict hit its public apex in 2014 after the Federal Bureau of Investigation took Apple to court in an effort to compel it to break into the phone of a gunman who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. A brewing legal showdown was defused after the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired professional hackers to crack into the device. These firms typically use methods that involve connecting to an iPhone's charging port and then using software to unlock the device. In Grayshift's case, the company has been offering a box-like device called GrayKey that can hook up to an iPhone and hack it within a few hours to several days. The update fixes a vulnerability that could be exploited by bad actors and police alike, the company said.

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