iOS 11.4.1 Brings USB Restricted Mode To iPhones

Image: Getty Images

USB Restricted Mode has been added and removed from several beta versions of iOS 11 but Apple has finally decided the security feature is ready for the mainstream. What is USB Restricted Mode and will it make any difference to the already tense relationship between Apple and the law enforcement community?

What Is USB Restricted Mode?

USB Restricted Mode is a new setting that disables data access to an iOS device through the USB port if the device has been locked for an hour or more.

This doesn't just apply to connections to a computer using a Lightning cable. In my experience, with USB Restricted Mode in the beta of iOS 12, I need to unlock my device to use the cable connection with accessories such as my in-car entertainment system.

How Do You Enable USB Restricted Mode

To turn on USB Restricted Mode

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on TouchID & Passcode (FaceID & Passcode on an iPhone X)
  3. Disable the USB Accessories setting
Image: Anthony Caruana/Lifehacker

This has been enabled in a weird way in my view. Turning USB Accessories off makes your device more secure.

Why Do The Cops Care?

Apple and the law enforcement community have been locked in an escalating battle over whether Apple should provide law enforcement with some sort of access to locked iPhones that are part of legal investigations.

Apple's position is that such access would result in security being weakened for everyone while law enforcement says that point of view makes life easier for bad guys.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been using a device called the GrayKey which somehow is able to bypass FaceID, TouchID and the other security measures employed by Apple. There's some speculation that GrayKey takes advantage of a supposed bug in iOS.

USB Restricted Mode, assuming it works as Apple says it does, will block the GrayKey "solution" as data access to the USB connection is blocked. This means the main tool believed to be used by law enforcement agencies to access locked iPhones will no longer work.

Should You Update Your iPhone To iOS 11.4.1?

Although USB Restricted Mode is a new feature, it's not the only thing in this point release of iOS 11. There are other security and bug fixes. So, there are other good reasons to update.

As a general rule, I always recommend updating to the latest version. Often, security issues are fixed before full details of the risks are revealed. For example, recent problems like the SMB 1.0 weakness that was exploited by WannaCry and the more recent Spectre and Meltdown issues in Intel processors were all managed in system updates that were released many weeks before the full extent of those vulnerabilities were widely revealed.

Should you update? Yes.


Comments

    Does this impact Lightning accessories, given it's all one port? Or only when using the Lightning-to-USB cable?

      Based on what i'm seeing with USB restricted mode on iOS 12 - all accessories that transfer data across the Lightning connector. You need to unlock using passcode. FaceID/TouchID in order to use them.

      Great question - i'll update the article

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