Apple’s iOS 11 is going to make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to seize information from your iPhone. In addition to a new SOS mode that lets you disable TouchID, the next iOS update will require an additional step to unlock your data when your device is connected to a computer, according to security developer ElcomSoft.
As it stands, if a law enforcement official or forensics analyst wanted to obtain data from your device, they would need to plug it into their computer and click “Trust” when prompted with a dialogue. And if your device was locked, they could unlock it with your passcode or your fingerprint, thanks to TouchID. iOS 11 will reportedly add an additional step to establish trust — your passcode will be required no matter what.
“Before you could just click the trust button,” Andrew Blaich, a security researcher with Lookout, told Gizmodo. “If someone can get a phone that’s unlocked, they can try to siphon the data off. Now there’s another step where they have to have the fingerprint.”
This is crucial for user privacy as laws play catch-up with the advancements of modern tech. US courts have split on when users should be forced to unlock their phones for law enforcement, but have often granted stronger Fifth Amendment protection to passcodes than fingerprints. The current law in Australia is nebulous, but likely to take some guidance from US precedent. Law enforcement officials have gone to great lengths to access the information inside our devices — the FBI paid $US900,000 ($1.1 million) to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone after Apple refused to assist in the effort, citing an existential threat to encryption, and police have even tried to 3D-print a finger to unlock a dead victim’s device.
This update to iOS 11, to be released to everyone as soon as September 12, marks a win for privacy advocates and creates another obstacle for cops trying to simply plug your device into their computer to access your data.