CUPERTINO (CBSLA) — Apple is reportedly closing a loophole that allows locked iPhones to be accessed without their owners’ passcodes, disabling a method often used by law enforcement.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that an upcoming software update would partially disable the iPhone’s Lightning port — used for charging, transferring data and plugging in accessories like headphones — an hour after the phone is locked. An authorized user would have to unlock the phone in order to reactivate the data transfer capability, although charging the battery would still work as normal.
Law enforcement officers have previously exploited the Lightning-port loophole using services and devices sold by companies like Cellebrite and Grayshift, which rely on access to the port’s data-transfer capability. The FBI used a third-party tool in 2016 to unlock an iPhone belonging one of the two San Bernardino shooters, averting a legal showdown with Apple at the last minute.
Both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have included device encryption since 2014, and Apple has closed other security loopholes in the past, including disabling iPhones after a number of failed attempts to enter a correct passcode. However, the company has regularly cooperated with authorities’ requests to access users’ data stored on its online iCloud service.