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Apple's newest security feature has been thwarted in less than a day

By Cal Jeffrey · 6 replies
Jul 10, 2018
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  1. Apple added Restricted Mode as a countermeasure against physical cracking devices such as GrayKey (which has been used by law enforcement) that exploit a USB connection to unlock the phone. Unfortunately, a security firm has already found a loophole to get around the feature.

    According to researchers at ElcomSoft, if a USB accessory is plugged into the phone before the one-hour time limit has elapsed, it will reset the counter. Furthermore, the device does not even have to have ever been used with the phone before.

    The firm says the exploit works with any number of readily available accessories. It even successfully used a $38 Lightning to USB3 camera adapter manufactured by Apple to reset the timer. It is still performing more tests using various connectors, but so far the only thing they have found that does not work is the Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor ($9).

    The concern with the security hole is that attackers could exploit it to buy themselves enough time to transport the phone to a place where it can be cracked. ElcomSoft’s Oleg Afonin used law enforcement as an example.

    “Once the police officer seizes an iPhone, he or she would need to immediately connect that iPhone to a compatible USB accessory to prevent USB Restricted Mode lock after one hour,” he said.

    Of course, the exploit requires that the attacker gain physical access to the phone within one hour of the last time it was unlocked, but according to Afonin, this is not much of a problem.

    “What are the chances that the device is seized within an hour after last unlock? Quite high,” he says. “We were not able to find recent stats, but even two years ago an average user unlocked their iPhone at least 80 times a day.”

    It is unclear if this is an issue that Apple can fix with a patch. When considering whether developers could rectify the problem in subsequent versions of iOS, Afonin states, “It seems highly unlikely simply because of the humongous amount of MFi devices that aren’t designed to support such a change. Theoretically, iOS could remember which devices were connected to the iPhone, and only allow those accessories to establish connectivity without requiring an unlock – but that’s about all we can think of.”

    We will have to wait and see how Apple responds to the situation.

    Permalink to story.

  2. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,451   +2,129

    Can the timer only be reset once or can you just keep plugging an accessory into the USB port again and again to render it totally irrelevant? If so, that's downright embarrassing. Actually, its embarrassing in either case.
  3. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,788   +1,073

    You can bet Apple makes a back door, but doesn't say anything...CIA, NSA wants access, they will get it..."or else". You can bet the deep state can make it pretty tough to do business in the USA, if you don't "cooperate".
  4. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,404   +2,677

    Isn't this a simple fix? Just make is so plugging in doesn't reset the timer, only an unlock does. It seems like a pretty glaring oversight so maybe there is some sort of OS limitation that's blocking apple there.
  5. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,185   +4,853

    *snicker cough snicker*
  6. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Guru Posts: 579   +231

    Don't see why they couldn't shorten the timer and add an immediate switch to secure mode.
  7. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,746   +3,168

    Better check inside that box .... it might be a ploy and actually sold by Apple to increase more revenue!
    JaredTheDragon likes this.

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