Apple has introduced a new security feature within iOS 12 which requires a password to allow USB access when the phone has been inactive for an hour or more. This is an evolution of the “USB Restricted Mode” feature that Apple was working on with iOS 11.4, and it’s relieving to see the feature making its way to iOS 12.
The feature will make it increasingly difficult to get unauthorized access to an iPhone via USB. For example, if your iPhone has been inactive for more than an hour, plugging it into a computer on iTunes will not work unless you allow access, i.e., by entering your passcode. This new setting can be found in the Touch ID & Passcode menu within the Settings. However, regular users will have to wait until this fall to get access to these features.
Devices like the GrayKey Box have been used in the past to brute-force passwords on an iPhone. Even law enforcement agencies rely on this method to unlock iPhones. But this new feature within iOS 12 is going to put an end to this once and for all.
With iOS 11.14, the USB Restricted Mode feature worked slightly differently in that it waited up to 7 days to require a passcode for a USB connection.
Law enforcement is not expected to be happy with this new feature. Apple has always conflicted with the authorities, especially after the San Bernardino incident where Apple refused to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone 5c. The FBI subsequently managed to get access to the device but didn’t find anything of substance or value on the shooter’s iPhone.