Apple is at it again. Their latest invention is the new iOS 11.4.1 dubbed the USB Restricted Mode; a new security feature that protects your iPhone and iPad from hackers by rendering your passcode practically inaccessible to any third-party software.
For years we all knew that Apple takes great pride in securing user data. An iPhone is practically a fortress, and breaking in is not at an easy task. However, recently, hackers have developed smarter ways to get the information they need when they need it. And to cement their fortress, Apple saw it beneficial to update their security functions. With the USB Restriction Mode feature, once you lock your iPhone or iPad, a countdown timer of an hour gets activated in the background and enables the USB Restricted Mode feature to prevent anyone from accessing the data port.
However, it seems that Apple’s taking serious measures to protect their user’s privacy and not just in the sense where someone can physically access your data but also in the web tracking sense too. We all know that for years Facebook has been the sneakiest data collector. Whether you click the like button or not, Facebook still registers that you loaded, in turn, advertisers and other third-parties can use this information to track you down. With Apple’s Safari anti-tracking features, there’s a real power shift with the loading of content, and how much data it gives the site it’s loading. The anti-tracking feature holds back, asking for specific permission before exposing your identity to the share, like and comment sections. And while there are more ways to track people, Safari takes point on some of them too pulling back on fonts, plugins and other configurations making it harder for just about anyone to track you passively.
How Does the USB Restricted Mode Work?
The USB Restricted Mode feature is not that complicated. All you have to do is connect your iPhone lightning port over a USB. Pretty much like how you plug in your phone to backup using iTunes. Once you’ve enabled the feature, your iPhone shuts off USB access to the phone and eliminates the imminent risk.
How Does the USB Restricted Mode Safeguard Users?
The USB Restricted Mode connects accessories through the USB lightning port to make it a tad harder for others to unlock the iPhone. The effect? It ensures that your iOS is safe from iPhone unlocking mechanisms used by malicious hackers.
What Apple doesn’t mention however is that there is a loophole to this seemingly well thought out feature. Researchers at ElcomSoft, a cybersecurity firm, are not as enthusiastic about this new update. Having performed numerous tests, ElcomSoft has found a loophole that resets the timer once the USB accessory is plugged into the lightning port. According to the firm, directly connecting the USB accessory to a targeted iOS device within an hour after it was unlocked resets the 1-hour countdown. In fact, according to Oleg Afonin of ElcomSoft, you can use Apple’s Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter to reset the restrictive mode. It means that a hacker can prevent the one-hour countdown from starting by simply plugin in the right USB accessory.
Why is It Important?
The importance of data security can’t be overstated. The good news – Apple’s on your side. Over the past few years, the tech giant has been in numerous disputes regarding their encryption protocols and security systems. The one controversy you’ve probably heard about involved the infamous San Bernardino shooter and his iPhone. Upon refusal to comply with the court’s order to unlock the criminal’s phone, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, stated that the US government is asking for unprecedented step, which threatens the security of their customers. He went on saying that a public discussion is necessary as that’s the only way that people can truly understand what’s at stake.
While there are plenty of things that you could criticize Apple for, their attitude towards virtual security is not one of them. It’s true that the FBI and other governmental institutions have the best intentions but granting them with too much power could have disastrous consequences. Take China, for example. The country’s Internet censorship policies are so omnipresent that Hip Hop (yes the whole cultural phenomenon) is banned, and that’s not all; the state has extensive ban-lists of books, movies, or musical compositions. Due to overreaching powers, the use of government-unapproved VPNs is banned. It’s called the Great Firewall of China for a reason. At the end of the day, Apple’s endeavors to protect their users’ data benefits all of us.
In a digital world, where hacking and surveillance are a norm, it can get difficult to do anything at all without compromising your data. And while the new iOS update undoubtedly has its fair share of downsides, it essentially helps to keep your data secure from devious third-parties, which surely is a plus.