Apple to close iPhone security loophole used by police to access devices

Image    Apple began working on the USB issue before learning it was popularly used by police

Image Apple began working on the USB issue before learning it was popularly used by police

"We're constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product", a company spokesman wrote in the statement.

The update could reignite tensions between Apple and the U.S. government, which wants technology companies to include backdoors - official ways to get around encryption and other security measures - on their devices.

The change isn't meant to thwart law enforcement efforts, Apple said. While this will likely make it more hard for law enforcement officials to access iPhones, it could result in the purchase of more GrayKey devices as they look to get them closer to where seizures occur.

Yet some authorities nearly certainly will see it as yet another barrier to carrying out their legally sanctioned investigations. The company went to court in 2016 over its refusal to break into the iPhone of a gunman who, along with his wife, killed 14 people and injured 22 others in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015.

It's a win for privacy advocates, but it's sure to enrage law enforcement officials by making it harder than ever for them to get information out of locked phones.

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"This could be painted as fundamentally about denying law enforcement access, but this is a security vulnerability", Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

The change may not sound like much, but it probably throws a serious roadblock in law enforcement attempts to break into iPhones. Companies responded with a wave of new encryption initiatives and other security improvements on computers, smartphones and popular communication tools such as email. Apple pointed out Wednesday that it has responded to thousands of requests from U.S. law enforcement for access to customer data - more than 14,000 in 2017.

In recent months, a law enforcement tool called GrayKey has become publicly known as the gold standard for law enforcement agencies trying to break into encrypted iPhones. However, the company said it isn't doing so to frustrate Federal Bureau of Investigation. "They will to some extent get away with it".

If a law enforcement agency wants to gain access to an iPhone, its options are limited, even with a warrant.

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