Apple has confirmed it will introduce a new feature in iOS software, USB Restricted Mode, that will close a long-standing loophole and make it more difficult for law enforcement to access the contents of iPhones.
"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," Apple said in a statement. "We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don't design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs."
The company had locked horns with law enforcement in a number of cases, most prominently over a phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, which led to arguments before the Supreme Court with the government eventually dropping the case.
The USB Restricted Mode feature is apparently designed to thwart tools like Cellebrite – which allegedly broke the iPhone at the center of the San Bernardino case – and GrayKey, which law enforcement officials use to break into iPhones belonging to suspected criminals or terrorists. The protection works by forcing users to unlock their iPhones with a password whenever connecting to a USB accessory, provided the phone has stayed locked for at least one hour. With the new feature, data cannot be transferred via a phone's lightning port an hour after the phone is locked.