Apple has defended an iPhone update that blocks police from unlocking suspects' smartphones to hunt for evidence.
Law enforcement can currently “crack” security measures using a piece of hardware that generates sequences of numbers to unlock smartphones so they can access messages and potential evidence without needing a PIN.
Police and forensics officials in the US are understood to be using a piece of kit called GrayKey, which takes around three to six days to work out a six digit passcode.
The small grey box uses lightning cables sticking out of the front to connect two iPhones at a time. The device, created by secretive Israeli cyber security company Cellebrite, is reported to cost around $15,000 (£11,000).
But Apple told Reuters that it is planning on issuing an update that will stop this device from working if a phone has not been unlocked for more than seven days, effectively blocking the cracking method.
"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.
Apple and law enforcement have long locked horns over the tech giant's responsibility when it comes to a citizen's right to privacy and assisting the police. Earlier this year, FBI forensic expert Stephen Flatley branded the company “jerks” for making phones that were too difficult to break into.
The company has frequently rebuffed the US government’s requests to hand over customers’ communications. In 2016 it famously refused to help police unlock a phone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California. The Silicon Valley giant, which has sold billions of iPhones since launching in 2007, has made it increasingly difficult to break into its devices, claiming that its priority is keeping customers’ data safe.
Apple told Reuters that the change in settings will protect customers in countries where law enforcement has greater power to seize customers' phones than in the US and UK.