Technology giant, Apple is about to make it much harder for agencies like the Nigerian Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS and other law enforcement institutions to gain access to information on iPhones.
The company will include a new feature, called USB Restricted Mode, in a future update of its iOS software, which runs on iPhones and iPads.
The feature disables data transfer through the Lightning port one hour after a phone was last locked, preventing popular third-party hacking tools used by law enforcement from accessing the device. The port can still be used for charging.
“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data.
“We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs,” Apple said in a statement on Wednesday.
The update could reignite tension between Apple and the US government, which wants technology companies to include backdoors — official ways to get around encryption and other security measures — on their devices. Technology companies including Apple have objected to such requests.
Apple told CNNMoney that its security update, including the Restricted Mode feature, is meant to prevent criminal attacks rather than stymie law enforcement agents investigating cases. The update fixes a vulnerability that could be exploited by bad actors and police alike, the company said.
“There are over 700 million iPhones in the hands of consumers. Patching any and all vulnerabilities as quickly as possible is … the only responsible path to protect the public,” said Alex Rice, co-founder of HackerOne, a firm that helps large companies detect security flaws.
An internet privacy advocate said Apple’s move was a win for the security of all iPhone users.
“Law enforcement is in the golden age of surveillance, with an unprecedented ability to look into every aspect of our lives, and more data available than ever before,” said Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We should not weaken security for millions of innocent users just to keep one exploit working longer.”
The update will be available in iOS 12, the company’s latest mobile operating system, when it comes out later this year. iOS 12 works on the iPhone 5S and later models.