Apple is doubling down on your security.
The company has seeded the fourth beta of its upcoming iOS 11.4 update to developers, and it contains an intriguing new feature called “USB Restricted Mode.”
The feature, spotted by ElcomSoft, will restrict your phone’s Lightning port so it can be used only for charging if the device isn’t unlocked, or connected to a paired and “trusted” computer. The feature will automatically disable the port’s data connection if you haven’t used it in a week. The developer notes make this clear:
To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must connect an accessory via Lightning connector to the device while unlocked — or enter your device passcode while connected at least once a week.
USB Restricted Mode won’t prevent hackers or law enforcement from accessing your phone’s data through the lightning port, but it will severely limit the time they have to do so.
In particular, it could hinder tools such as the infamous GrayKey, which law enforcement agencies across the country are using to penetrate locked iPhones. GrayKey devices can take three days or longer to crack a six-digit passcode.
USB Restricted Mode was first sighted in the beta of iOS 11.3, but it wasn’t in the final release, so it still remains to be seen if the official launch of iOS 11.4 will include the feature.
That said, earlier iOS 11 releases have been riddled with frustrating bugs, from disabling microphones and wrecking battery life to dangerous security vulnerabilities. It’ll be nice if iOS 11.4 brings us a feature that’s actually helpful, especially in keeping our data safe.
We’ve contacted Apple for comment and will update this story if we hear back.