Apple and authorities play a non-ending game of cat and mouse (we leave you to decide which is which) when it comes to iPhones. Apple closes security holes and makes it harder for anyone to compromise an iPhone or an iPad. Law enforcement, on the other hand, are constantly looking for ways to break into encrypted devices in the name of justice. The latter group now has a helping hand in the form of forensic hackers like Grayshift who say that they have already found a way around Apple’s upcoming security feature.
Grayshift’s most popular product, GrayKey, is a small box that connects to an iPhone via a USB cable. It then uses variations of the brute force method, that is, trying every possible passcode combination, to unlock an iPhone, depending on when the device was last unlocked. Law authorities in the US have not been shy to admit using such a tool to aid them in investigating crimes where the iPhone’s owner is either absent or deceased.
This may have prompted Apple to introduce a new feature in iOS 12 called USB Restricted Mode. In a nutshell, it will only allow the Lightning port to be used for charging if the device hasn’t been locked for more than an hour. This is basically a measure to prevent data from passing through a USB cable in cases where the iPhone was lost or stolen. Or if it’s owner is no longer available to unlock it, like in the case of said investigations.
Unsurprisingly, this has caused some concern among police who have relied on GrayKey for their work. That said, some forensic experts and cops are not so worried because Grayshift has reportedly already worked around that new obstacle or at least aren’t giving up yet. Also unsurprising since that is what Grayshift’s main business is all about. Grayshift’s believers are confident that the company has future-proofed their technology for such instances, also unsurprising since they’ve paid no small amount to get a GrayKey license.
iOS 12 is still set to launch later this month, so it still remains to be seen how true those claims will be. Even if they are, you can bet Apple will take even stronger measure to plug up the holes of its ship, putting it further at odds with government authorities.