Researchers find a flaw in Apple’s new security feature

How to use USB Restricted Mode on your iPhone or iPad

In addition to the expected fixes and improvements, iOS 11.4.1 brings over a feature that's called USB Restricted Mode, whose goal is to prevent those iPhone hacking machines that law enforcement is using to bypass the screen lock from hacking iOS devices.

Computer security forensics firm ElcomSoft has found a $39 device - one Apple sells on its on website - that runs contrary to Apple's instructions, fooling the restricted mode and giving access to anyone using the device.

After testing the latest build of iOS (11.4.1), researchers report that USB Restricted Mode does indeed persist across reboots and software restores.

However, USB Restricted Mode is not foolproof.

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Even if forensic engineers are able to stop the device they're trying to break into from entering USB Restricted Mode, Elcomsoft noted that since iOS 11.4, cracking devices such as Grayshift's GrayKey are limited to just one passcode guess per ten minutes.

According to ElcomSoft's Oleg Afonin, connecting certain Lightning accessories will reset the one-hour countdown, allowing law enforcement to prevent the device from being locked down indefinitely. It operates like this: if an iPhone or iPad is not unlocked after one hour, data access through the Lightning port will shut down. The feature is aimed at rendering third-party boxes which try to brute force into a locked iPhone useless.

iOS 12 may be the hottest iPhone operating system you can run right now, but that's still in beta. Law enforcement and private companies could leverage the loophole and design new hardware to continue to crack passcodes through the Lightning port.

Yesterday, Apple's iOS 11.4.1 update secured the USB Lightning port on iPhones and iPads. Users on iOS 11.3.1 or lower are advised to stay where they are. But security researchers note that it's trivially easy to block that lockout with Apple's own accessories. After all, if you're listening to music with your iPhone hooked up to a USB audio interface, you don't want the music to stop after an hour, and to re-authenticate before you can continue. The only way for Apple to now fix this flaw would be to require authentication of all iPhone accessories, but this likely won't happen anytime soon.

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