If you followed Updates from Apple for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura, you already know that the company is upping its security game.
It replaces passwords with passkeys and even introduces Safety Check – an emergency feature designed to help people suffering from domestic violence. But by far the most impressive upcoming feature is Lockdown Mode.
On Wednesday, Apple Viewed this new, hardcore security option designed to protect users from state-sponsored mercenary spyware.
According to the company:
Lockdown Mode provides an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, could be personally targeted by some of the most advanced digital threats, such as those from the NSO Group and other private companies.
This is intended to protect people such as journalists, activists, human rights defenders and politicians.
Lockdown Mode disables various protocols and services that may prove to be dangerous.
Your device is also unable to enroll in mobile device management (MDM) systems, which is used to install organization-specific software.
The rest of the restrictions include:
- Most types of message attachments (except photos) are blocked.
- Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime, will be stopped unless the user has initiated them.
- Wired connections to a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
The reason for this is simple: these are all potential vulnerabilities. To give you an example: Google’s Zero Project team explained how the Pegasus software (developed by NSO Group) can infect iPhones in a “zero-click” scenario by using a GIF to exploit a vulnerability in iMessage.
Apple warns in advance that the Lockdown mode adds extra friction to the user experience, because many functionalities are completely unavailable.
Don’t worry about that though. The feature is optional and designed for a very small number of people – not the average user, like me or you. But if you’re determined to go the extra mile for your safety, you’ll have to sacrifice some convenience.
Why Lockdown Mode Is So Important
Anything that strengthens cybersecurity is undoubtedly a victory. But beyond that, recognizing that customers are at risk from rental spyware is a big step in and of itself.
Apple’s Lockdown Mode could spark a useful industry discussion and even make the feature even more difficult. For example, the next step might be to disable the phone’s camera, built-in microphone, and GPS capabilities.
It also won’t surprise you if Google and other companies soon follow suit. And that’s something we absolutely need.