Apple has confirmed plans to tighten security in iOS 12 to block the use of external hacking devices such as Grayshift’s GrayKey box by locking down the Lightning port on iOS devices, Reuters reports. A feature recently discovered in iOS 11.4 was designed to prevent the Lightning port from accepting USB device connections when nothing had been connected in seven days, and after the first iOS 12 beta came out, it was discovered that the feature had been adjusted to reduce the time limit down to a mere one hour — meaning that when connecting a USB device to an iPhone running iOS 12, users will be prompted to unlock their iPhone unless a USB device has already been connected in the past hour. While Apple had previously been silent on the issue, this week an Apple spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the feature is being implemented, but clarified that the move is being undertaken to protect all customers, and not specifically to thwart law enforcement efforts, as some have suggested.
Apple noted that the efforts are intended to “head off further spread of the attack technique” that has become popular with tools like the GrayKey box, and in particular to protect customers in countries where criminals may have “extensive resources” for hacking iPhones, or where law enforcement can seize iPhones with fewer legal restrictions than are common under U.S. law. “We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data,” Apple said in a prepared statement. “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”