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By 14 June 2018 | Categories: news

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US law enforcement agencies have been circumventing Apple iPhone security to break into suspected criminals’ devices for the past few years. But now Apple is putting a stop to it, much to the chagrin of the authorities. The New York Times reports that a new software update will disable the charging and data port after an hour in order to disallow any transferring of data without entering the phone’s password.

According the NYT, authorities have been hacking into iPhones by connecting them to another device running specific software, via the data port. This allowed law enforcement to break into devices without having to enter a password (or to secure a warrant) months after the iPhone has last been used by the owner.

The Indiana State Police, for example, has used this exploit to enter 96 iPhones since March this year, using a $15 000 machine purchased from a company called Grayshift.

Although the authorities are not happy with Apple’s planned update, those advocating the right to privacy have another viewpoint. Matthew D. Green, a professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University notes, “This is a really big vulnerability in Apple’s phones. A Grayshift device sitting on a desk at a police station, he said, “could very easily leak out into the world.”

An Apple spokesman, Fred Sainz commented that the same security exploit used by police to hack iPhones can also be used by criminals. “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs,” Sainz said.

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