How to use USB Restricted Mode on your iPhone or iPad

Apple releases iOS 11.4.1 with USB Restricted Mode

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With the rollout of the iOS 11.4.1, Apple made it harder for law enforcement to bypass the USB Restricted Mode. That's what Oleg Afonin, a researcher at cybersecurity firm ElcomSoft, looked to take advantage of. Here's how to enable this feature.

According to a new report from The Verge, USB Restricted Mode, a new iOS feature that protects unauthorized access of the data on your iOS device, has a glaring omission that would make it quite easy for someone to beat in many scenarios. In other words, we have found no obvious way to break USB Restricted Mode once it is already engaged.

What USB Restricted Mode does is to block data communications over the Lightning port an hour after the iPhone or iPad was last unlocked.

However, if the device is connected to a Lightning accessory - including one that has never been connected before - the one-hour countdown timer to initiate USB Restricted Mode will be reset.

Making sure its research is as inclusive and objective as possible, ElcomSoft says it plans to test as many USB adapters as possible and found that one, the Apple Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter ($9), does not work to defeat USB restrictions. Does downloading and installing the next version of the mobile operating system, iOS 11.4.1, fix it? However, this doesn't mean that the USB connectivity with an Apple device is entirely safe. If you've got accessories that you want to continue working after your iPhone has been sitting locked for awhile, you can toggle the option on to remove the hour limit.

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Apple's iPhones are extremely secure once you've used TouchID or FaceID and a passcode to lock them down, but there was a loophole with specialized USB tools plugging into the lightning port. Users on iOS 11.3.1 or lower are advised to stay where they are.

Apple curiously didn't include the security in the release notes, probably to not alert "interested parties".

A growing number of iPhone and iPad owners have voiced their complaints on the official Apple support forums regarding a battery drain issue due to iOS 11.4.

If the countdown expires, USB Restricted Mode is still a good defense against hacks.

Apple hasn't commented yet, but we can assume that a patch will be landing soon.

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