Apple's USB Restricted Mode can be fooled, security researchers say

FBI agent on a phone

Apple releases iOS 11.4.1 with USB Restricted Mode

Apple has added a new security feature to iOS 11.4.1 that makes it harder for hackers - as well as law enforcement and government agencies - to unlock your iPhone.

The feature, introduced in iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12 beta 2, is supposed to make the data on your iPhone safe even if someone can physically access it. In other words, we have found no obvious way to break USB Restricted Mode once it is already engaged.

Elcomsoft explained that this issue with the USB Restricted Mode feature arises from the fact that Apple doesn't enforce cryptographic authentication for iPhone accessories, except for its own.

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The bug is alleged to reset the one-hour counter available within the latest iOS update as long as a USB accessory is connected to the iOS device before the toggle triggers the lock.

According to one user, an iPhone 6 that was working perfectly started experiencing rapid battery drain after upgrading to iOS 11.4. iPhone 6 used to go a full day without needing to charge, but since installing iOS 11.4, the device's battery only lasts half a day. "Prior to iOS 11.4.1, isolating the iPhone inside a Faraday bag and connecting it to a battery pack would be enough to safely transport it to the lab", he concludes.

However, if you aren't actually happy with the release, and you want to go back to an earlier version of iOS, then be aware that Apple is now only signing iOS 11.4, which means that you will only be able to downgrade to iOS 11.4. However, we discovered a workaround, which happens to work exactly as we suggested back in May.

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Of course, this only works if the device hadn't entered in USB Restricted Mode by the time the police obtained it. The Grayshift boxes plug into the Lightning port and remove prolonged delays between PIN code attempts, allowing law enforcement (or criminals) to brute-force an unlock.

Apple curiously didn't include the security in the release notes, probably to not alert "interested parties". Do you still think that USB Restricted Mode is a good idea?

At first we thought we would have to wait until iOS 12 this fall to see this feature, but here it is.

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Apple today officially pressed that big ol' red button marked "Disseminate", and iOS 11.4.1 started to roll out.

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