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Apple iOS 11.4.1 arrives with USB Restricted Mode

11 July 2018

With the rollout of the iOS 11.4.1, Apple made it harder for law enforcement to bypass the USB Restricted Mode. Unfortunately, a security firm has already found a loophole to get around the feature.

The feature was created to shield iPhone users against passcode-cracking devices used by law enforcement, essentially immobilizing any attempts at accessing the device after it's been in locked mode for an hour.

Afonin's method works by extending the one-hour countdown of Apple's USB Restricted Mode.

"Once the police officer seizes an iPhone, he or she would need to immediately connect that iPhone to a compatible USB accessory to prevent USB Restricted Mode lock after one hour", he said. So if you want to enable USB Restricted Mode, you had better go tend to the red notification on the settings icon and upgrade to the latest update.

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What ElcomSoft note is that any USB accessory can be plugged into the iOS device within the hour safe window, and this prevents the timeout from ever being reset.

A Lightning port on an iPhone 6S. "Prior to iOS 11.4.1, isolating the iPhone inside a Faraday bag and connecting it to a battery pack would be enough to safely transport it to the lab", he concludes. When you connect the iPhone to a computer, the two devices exchange cryptographic keys and establish trust.

As a concession to user convenience, the restrictions on the Lightning port only comes into effect if the Lightning port is not now being used, and the device has not been unlocked for more than a hour.

There should be no reason why iOS 11.4.1 has caused issues on your device.

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But the same Elcomsoft says the workaround it discovered back in May still works on iOS 11.4.1. However, Apple had not released the details on its security page at the time of this posting, but expect them to appear sometime soon.

Apple is working away on iOS 12 at the moment, but it's still pushing out updates for iOS 11.

Of course, the exploit requires that the attacker gain physical access to the phone within one hour of the last time it was unlocked, but according to Afonin, this is not much of a problem.

We will have to wait and see how Apple responds to the situation.

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Apple iOS 11.4.1 arrives with USB Restricted Mode