NEW YORK (CNET) – Apple will make a method — often used by police — for getting data off iPhones much less powerful with a software update.

The change, called USB Restricted Mode, will close down access to data through a iPhone’s Lightning port if the phone hasn’t been unlocked in the past hour.

(credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The update isn’t meant to hold back law enforcement efforts, Apple said Wednesday, but to close a security hole that put customers at risk. Not just police, but identity thieves could use the Lightning port to access data. What’s more, Apple reportedly told Reuters, some of its customers live in countries where police take possession of phones whenever they want.

“At Apple, we put the customer at the center of everything we design,” the Apple said in an emailed statement. “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.”

The announcement is one more piece of Apple’s effort to position itself as a champion of user privacy, an approach that has put it at odds with law enforcement in the U.S.

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