iOS 12 Includes ‘USB Restricted Mode,’ Requiring an iPhone Unlock Every Hour to Maintain USB Connections

Apple on Monday previewed a number of security and privacy features it plans to add to the iOS 12 operating system.

Among these are encrypted Facetime group calls, password-management tools, and camera and microphone protections, however, one new feature especially stands out – a “restricted” mode that locks USB access after an hour.

According to a new report from Motherboard, the feature, known as “USB Restricted Mode,” essentially forces users to unlock the iPhone with the passcode when connecting it to a USB accessory everytime the phone has not been unlocked for one hour. That includes the infamous iPhone unlocking devices that companies such as Cellebrite or GrayShift make, which police departments all over the world have begun to use to hack into seized iPhones.

“That pretty much kills [GrayShift’s product] GrayKey and Cellebrite,” said Ryan Duff, a security researcher who has studied iPhone and is Director of Cyber Solutions at Point3 Security. “If it actually does what it says and doesn’t let ANY type of data connection happen until it’s unlocked, then yes. You can’t exploit the device if you can’t communicate with it.”

Previous iOS betas had USB restrictions that required the entering of a password when it hadn’t been unlocked for seven days. Those USB Restricted Modes were later removed before Apple issued final versions of iOS.

It’s basically the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game between companies like Apple that are interested in user privacy at all costs, and various law enforcement agencies that are willing to risk user privacy for the sake of locking away criminals and investigating crimes.

The unannounced beta feature came as Apple previewed a host of security enhancements to the upcoming macOS Mojave and iOS 12.

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