iOS 11.4.1 is here and my Upgrade Guide has already explained why it’s an essential update. That said, beneath the surface,
‘Great Secret Features’ and ‘Nasty Surprises’ are my regular columns investigating the best features / biggest problems hidden behind the headlines.
It was omitted from the official release notes, but with iOS 11.4.1 Apple quietly introduced an enhanced version of its ‘USB Restricted Mode’. This was meant to counteract a Grayshift hack which automatically enters passcodes via the Lightning port until the correct code is found and a device is unlocked. But it turns out Apple’s enhancement was half-baked.
What Apple did in iOS 11.4.1 was decrease the time until an iPhone or iPad’s Lightning port is disabled from one week to one hour after the last successful unlock. But security specialist ElcomSoft discovered this time limit will not start if the Lightning port is used at any point within that hour, so all you have to do to stop the one-hour window closing indefinitely is connect any USB accessory.
ElcomSoft even recommends the perfect accessory to do this: Apple’s own Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter which costs $39 and has passthrough power so Grayshift can connect directly to the device at the same time.
The irony of Apple falling victim to dongles should be lost on no-one.
The silver lining for iPhone and iPad owners is Apple’s new one hour USB Restricted Mode will stop easy access into accidentally lost devices which may well not be noticed by anyone for the first hour they are missing. But it doesn’t help anyone targeted by criminals or law enforcement agencies, even if ElcomSoft notes iOS 11.4 made the hacking process significantly slower.
Interestingly, ElcomSoft says iOS 12 betas contain the same USB loophole so it remains unclear whether Apple is aware of it and whether it plans to issue a fix through either the final version of iOS 12 or an emergency iOS 11.4.2 patch.
The good news is it doesn’t matter which option Apple chooses as it has already promised all devices running iOS 11 will be compatible with iOS 12. And it is this kind of long-term software support which is likely to win over customers when Apple releases its all-new iPhones in September…
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