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Apple to close security loophole that lets law enforcement crack into locked iPhones

A customer tries out a new iPhone at an Apple store in Chicago.
A customer tries out a new iPhone at an Apple store in Chicago.
Kiichiro Sato/AP

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Apple is closing a security gap that allowed outsiders to pry personal information from locked iPhones without a password, a change that will thwart law enforcement agencies that have been exploiting the vulnerability to collect evidence in criminal investigations. The loophole will be shut down in a forthcoming update to Apple's iOS software, which powers iPhones.

Once fixed, iPhones will no longer be vulnerable to intrusion via the Lightning port used both to transfer data and to charge iPhones. The port will still function after the update, but will shut off data an hour after a phone is locked if the correct password isn't entered. The current flaw has provided a point of entry for authorities across the U.S. since the FBI paid an unidentified third party in 2016 to unlock an iPhone used by a mass killer in the San Bernardino shooting a few months earlier. The FBI sought outside help after Apple rebuffed the agency's efforts to make the company create a security backdoor into iPhone technology. Apple's refusal to cooperate with the FBI at the time became a political hot potato pitting the rights of its customers against the broader interests of public safety.

Privacy advocates praised the company’s recent decision, while many law enforcement agencies condemned it. What do you think, do you support Apple’s decision to close the technological loophole that enables law enforcement agencies to hack into iPhones? Call us at 866-893-5722 and let us know.

With files from the Associated Press

We reached out to Apple for comment and they responded with this statement:

“At Apple, we put the customer at the center of everything we design. 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. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”


Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an independent privacy rights group based in Washington, D.C.; adjunct professor of information privacy and open government at Georgetown Law; he tweets @MarcRotenberg

Cedric Leighton, founder and president of Cedric Leighton Associates, a risk and leadership management consultancy; he is also a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and the former Director for Training of the National Security Agency; he tweets @CedricLeighton