Apple's New "Lockdown Mode" Protects Against Spyware

Apple's New "Lockdown Mode" Protects Against Spyware

Apple made the announcement on Wednesday that it intends to include an improved security setting known as Lockdown Mode in the upcoming versions of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. This setting will protect high-risk users from "highly targeted cyberattacks."

The "extreme, optional protection" feature, which is now available for preview in beta versions of its upcoming software, is intended to combat a surge in threats posed by private companies developing state-sponsored surveillance ware such as Pegasus, DevilsTongue, Predator, and Hermit. This feature is now available for preview in beta versions of its upcoming software.

When enabled, Lockdown Mode "hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware," according to a statement issued by Apple. Lockdown Mode is only available on iOS devices.

This includes disabling link previews in Messages, blocking the majority of message attachment types other than images, rendering just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation ineffective, removing support for shared albums in Photos, and preventing incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers.

When an iPhone is locked, wired connections with a computer or accessory are severed, and most importantly, the installation of configuration profiles is disabled. This is a feature that has been exploited by malicious actors to circumvent the App Store by sideloading applications onto the device.

The tech giant also mentioned that it intends to add additional countermeasures to Lockdown Mode over time while simultaneously inviting feedback from the community of security researchers to identify "qualifying findings" that will be eligible for up to $2 million in bug bounties. This was mentioned in the announcement.

It is important to note that the feature will not be activated automatically; however, it can be accessed by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode. This is important to keep in mind.

This news comes a month after Apple introduced a new Rapid Security Response feature in iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. This feature aims to deploy security fixes without the need for a full operating system version update, and it was introduced alongside those two operating system updates.

Both Google and Meta offer similar software features that are referred to as Advanced Account Protection and Facebook Protect. These software features are designed to protect the accounts of users who are considered to be at a "elevated risk of targeted online attacks" from any attempts made to take control of those accounts. However, it would not be surprising at all if Google implemented a feature very similar to this one on Android.


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