iOS 16 features new Lockdown Mode to protect users from spyware

Apple today announced a new feature for iOS 16 called Lockdown Mode to protect users who may be targets of sophisticated spyware. The feature is designed as an extreme method of protection for a specific demographic of users who may be facing extreme threats to their digital security. Along with iOS 16, Lockdown Mode is also coming to iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura this fall.

Lockdown Mode

Apple announces “groundbreaking” Lockdown Mode to further protect users from targeted cyber attacks

Let’s get into what the new Lockdown Mode includes. At launch, the feature will involve several extensive protections. To turn it on, users will have to enable the feature from Settings and then restart their device to allow the functionalities to take effect.

  • Messages: Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.
  • Web browsing: Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.
  • Apple services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request.
  • Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
  • Configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.

Lockdown Mode

From Apple’s announcement post:

“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market. Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture.

“While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are. That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

The global spyware trade targets human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, etc. It does not seem to be a coincidence that Lockdown Mode was introduced by Apple after the iPhone of an award-winning journalist was hacked using NSO Pegasus, despite Apple filing an injunction to stop NSO from targeting iPhone owners.

In addition to the new Lockdown Mode, the Cupertino tech giant is also making a $10 million grant to the Dignity and Justice Fund to support organizations that “investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.

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