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Apple steps up encrytion to thwart police cracking of iPhones

14 June 2018

When questioned by Reuters, Apple explicitly mentioned the protection of its customers in countries where law enforcement uses the aforementioned hacking tools - many of which have much looser human-rights protections than are present in the US.

The security hole has to do with the Lightning port, which can offer USB access to an Apple product. Lightning connectors were first born before Type-C had taken hold of the market, but now that it is used widely in both phones and computers, it makes sense for Apple to move to USB-C. Such devices, particularly GrayShift's GrayKey, which promises to unlock even new iPhone models, use the USB port to access a locked iPhone in order to crack its password using more attempts than would normally be allowed.

"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.

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Yet some authorities nearly certainly will see it as yet another barrier to carrying out their legally sanctioned investigations. The FBI demanded Apple create special software so it could unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting in 2015. Instead, the Federal Bureau of Investigation purchased a tool from a third-party that let it hack into the device.

It's a win for privacy advocates, but it's sure to enrage law enforcement officials by making it harder than ever for them to get information out of locked phones.

In a statement today, Apple has confirmed that it is indeed going to roll out the USB Restricted Mode, undercutting the easiest way law enforcement or criminals break into iPhones or iPads. "There's not really any reason to think only law enforcement will ever have those devices".

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The company has been a prominent opponent of United States legislation to force technology companies to maintain access to users' communications. But revelations about the volume and precision of such data - most famously from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 - prompted a consumer backlash.

According to Digitimes, the company are hoping to introduce the new cables and phase out the old ones starting next year. Apple pointed out Wednesday that it has responded to thousands of requests from USA law enforcement for access to customer data - more than 14,000 in 2017.

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Apple steps up encrytion to thwart police cracking of iPhones