Apple releases iOS 11.4.1 with USB Restricted Mode

FBI agent on a phone

Security researchers at ElcomSoft claim to have found a loophole in the new USB Restricted Mode, which rolled out Monday as part of iOS 11.4.1.

However, security firm ElcomSoft has discovered a way to disable the timer, and it's ridiculously easy - you just need to plug an accessory into the iPhone's Lightning port, and the timer is disabled. Launch Settings, navigate to iCloud Find My iPhone and make sure that the feature is disabled. After looking at the problem, Apple opted for what seemed like a foolproof solution: USB Restricted Mode.

Not only does it require law enforcement to act quickly and to have the requisite hardware on hand, but it only works within the window: once USB Restricted Mode has kicked in, you can't undo it without the passcode.

The bug is alleged to reset the one-hour counter available within the latest iOS update as long as a USB accessory is connected to the iOS device before the toggle triggers the lock. If you have taken the opportunity to upgrade your compatible device to iOS 11.4.1 and immediately regret that decision for one reason or another, then it is possible to downgrade the firmware. "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. According to Elcomsoft, even untrusted accessories can do this, and the company believes that it should be able to keep an iPhone unlocked even with $2 iPhone cables from online Chinese stores. In future iOS releases, it may make sense for Apple to make the policies more stringent, by only prolonging the timeouts for accessories that have been previously authorised as trustworthy. However, this doesn't mean that the USB connectivity with an Apple device is entirely safe. These bypass the usual restrictions on entering passcodes by attacking through the Lightning port.

Now, Apple should be testing iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 exclusively, as you shouldn't expect to see anymore iOS 11 updates. Users on iOS 11.3.1 or lower are advised to stay where they are. 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 doesn't see it as a flaw.

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