Apple bolsters iPhone security; says change aimed at blocking hackers, not law enforcement

Apple Inc. announced a change to its iPhone default settings Wednesday that’s intended to further secure user information from unauthorized access.

The tech company said the change is aimed at blocking hackers, not at hindering law enforcement agencies from doing their jobs, Reuters reported.

The iPhone operating system will now cut off communication through the USB port when the phone has not been unlocked in the past hour, the report said.

The security step addresses a glitch that allowed hackers or government agencies to bypass the operating system’s current security setting, the company told Reuters.

Forensic companies that once employed machines to break through security provisions will now have only an hour to run code on the devices. Security researchers estimate the new feature will cut phone access by as much as 90 percent.  

Apple has insisted that the new security measure is primarily aimed at protecting users in despotic countries, not at making law enforcement’s job more difficult.

“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data,” Apple said in a statement, cited by Reuters. “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”

Apple had long known before the making the update, that law enforcement agencies and unfriendly parties have been exploiting the glitch, Reuters reported.

Apple has been at the forefront of a battle between tech companies and law enforcement to hand over data in extreme cases. The company went to court in 2016 over its refusal to break into the iPhone of a gunman who, along with his wife, killed 14 people and injured 22 others in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015.

Then-FBI Director James Comey conceded there was no way the agency could legally force the company to comply with its demands. The FBI ultimately contracted a third party to break into the phone.

Skeptics insist that heightened security measures will merely boost the demand for hackers outside the government.

The new security feature, which has already been tested on beta versions of iOS, will be available in future iPhone models.  

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

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