Apple has already fallen afoul of law enforcement because its hard stance on encryption and protecting users’ privacy, no matter who that user may be. The company and authorities are almost playing a game of cat and mouse, with police doing everything to thwart Apple’s safeguards, even going as far as using dead people’s fingers. Apple might soon be stepping up its game once more with the upcoming iOS 11.4’s new USB Restricted Mode feature, which will practically disable USB data connection if an iPhone has not been unlocked for 7 days.
This scenario seems to be explicitly designed for cases where the device has been lost or stolen or when the owner has passed away. In both cases, an iPhone or iPad might not be unlocked, whether through passcode or biometrics, for days. After 7 days, iOS 11.4’s feature will kick in and will disable the Lightning port for data transfers. It will only be possible to use it for charging and nothing else.
The feature was possibly developed to address claims by the likes of GrayKey about being able to recover data even from locked iPhones. This mostly involves copy iOS partitions to a computer and then restoring it on the device and having unlimited attempts at passcode unlocking. Restricted mode won’t work even with computers authorized via iTunes unless the device has beeh unlocked properly first.
USB Restricted Mode first appeared in the iOS 11.3 betas but never made it to the final release. According to Elcomsoft, it will instead be part of the final iOS 11.4 release. This move could make authorities even more desperate in unlocking iPhones of deceased suspects, especially now that they have and even shorter window of time to do so.