Apple USB Restricted mode can be bypassed with a simple $39 accessory

iphone x lightning port
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It looks like Apple’s engineers may be going back to the drawing board, as it now seems the much lauded USB Restricted mode, created to thwart efforts to break into a locked iPhone, is able to be circumvented by a simple $39 accessory.

Introduced in iOS 11.4.1, USB Restricted mode kicks in automatically an hour after an iPhone was last unlocked, and disables all data connectivity of the Lightning port until the device is unlocked by a user, or by a trusted device. The mode was created to combat devices like the Graykey, which is used by law enforcement and other agencies to unlock iPhones. The introduction of USB Restricted mode means that these sorts of agencies now have an hour at most to unlock an iPhone, before it essentially becomes a chargeable brick. An hour isn’t a lot of time in law enforcement, and it was thought that this measure would effectively close Apple’s iPhone off entirely.

Apparently not. According to a series of tests by Elcomsoft Blog, while USB Restricted mode persists through restarts and software resets, and has so far proven invulnerable, the timer that engages Restricted mode can be paused by connecting a simple Lightning accessory. While the blog admits that tests are not yet complete, it seems that inserting Apple’s own Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter pauses the countdown, allowing agents the chance to unlock an iPhone through existing methods.

How does it work? If you imagine USB Restricted mode as a large and sturdy door, then inserting the camera adaptor essentially works as a doorstop, holding the door open. Because the accessory is otherwise engaging the Lightning port, USB Restricted mode apparently will not start the timer until the accessory has been removed.

However, like a doorstop, attaching the accessory after the hour has already passed does nothing to halt the process, just in the same way you can’t use a doorstop to open a locked door. What this basically means is that a seized iPhone simply has to be attached to an accessory, like the camera adaptor, in order to halt the hour timer on Restricted mode, effectively rendering Apple’s security pointless.

We have reached out to Apple for comment and will update if we hear back.

Emerging Tech

NASA selects landing site candidates for OSIRIS-Rex to sample asteroid Bennu

Last year, the OSIRIS-REx craft arrived at asteroid Bennu, from which it will collect a sample from the asteroid to be brought back to Earth. Now, the NASA team has selected four potential sites to choose from for the sampling mission.

The best Xbox One games you can get right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

The best iPad Pro keyboard cases

The iPad Pro can double as a laptop, but it needs a proper keyboard to achieve that task. There are loads of keyboard/case combos to choose from; we rounded up the best of the lot right here.

LG may show off one of these new foldable phone designs at IFA 2019

LG is set to unveil a new dual-screen/foldable smartphone at IFA 2019, and speculation is rampant. Some patents may show what we could potentially see from LG soon, and they range from familiar to bizarre.

Here are the cities where you can access 5G from major U.S. carriers right now

5G may not be widely available just yet, but it's slowly getting there. Interested in checking out the next-gen network for yourself? Here are all the cities where 5G is currently available.

Apple’s iOS 12.4 apparently unpatched a security flaw and enabled a jailbreak

It looks like iOS 12.4 may not be the safest version of iOS, according to a new report. Apparently, Apple accidentally unpatched a security flaw that was previously fixed in iOS 12.3 -- and the result is that any phone with iOS 12.4 can now…

Where do AirPods go when they die? The big problem with tiny earbuds

True wireless headphones are incredibly small and convenient, but they’re also some of the most ephemeral and disposable tech products available. With relatively short lifespans, true wireless earbuds range from wasteful to legitimately…

The best iPhone car mounts to keep your smartphone in sight and stable

The best iPhone car mounts are designed to securely hold your device in place and keep it in view while on the road. Here are some of the mounts you should look into if you're in the market for a quality piece of equipment.

Amazon drops prices on refurbished Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, and iPhone

Break your smartphone or, worse yet, lose it? Tired of paying for a device you don't own? Amazon's got some great deals on unlocked and refurbished phones including the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS, and Samsung Galaxy S10 this week.

Is the Apple Card any better than a regular credit card? We asked an expert

The new Apple Card is integrated with your iPhone and comes with a titanium backup card for places that don’t accept Apple Pay, but how does it stack up against the competition? We asked some experts to find out.

Apple Card is finally available. Here’s everything you need to know about it

Apple is getting into the credit card business. Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for directly on your iPhone, and it doesn't have fees. There's a lower interest rate and you can even get Daily Cash from all purchases.

Save space and data with Google Go, now for regular Android devices

Google Go is the top app for space- and data-saving searches on the entry-level Android Go, and now Google is making those handy capabilities available on mainstream Android devices.

Apple Card Review: Come for the titanium card, stay for the app

The Apple Card has a lot of buzz, even if it’s iPhone-only card management will leave you stranded should you lose your phone. Apple’s more concerned with getting reluctant Americans to use mobile payments.

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for August 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for August 2019.