The iPhone maker confirms the switch has been documented on the beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12. It will be made permanent in a future general release.
In a prepared statement, the company notes:
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.
Naturally, this switch might not sit well with law enforcement. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Apple has long fought legislation or other ways to force technology companies to maintain access to users’ communications. In 2016, for example, it went to court to challenge an order that required it to break into an iPhone 5c used by a killer in San Bernardino. Eventually, the FBI found another way to break into the phone.
Back in May, it was discovered iOS 11.4 included a new feature called USB Restricted Mode. Under that iOS version, Apple imposed a seven-day window during which accessories can use the USB data connection over the Lightning port. In iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12, it looks like further restrictions are coming.