Apple has long touted its commitment to building personal privacy protections into its devices and on Wednesday announced a new, “extreme” cybersecurity capability coming this fall as part of system upgrades for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
Lockdown Mode, according to Apple, will be built into upcoming operating system releases including iOS16, iPadOS16 and macVentura.
Next level security for high level targets: Apple says the new feature is a revolutionary advancement specifically designed for users who may be considered as high value by cybercriminals and “personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”
“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture, in a statement. “Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Lock it down by locking it all out. Apple says Lockdown Mode bolsters the internal defenses of its devices and computers by strictly limiting certain functionalities and sharply reducing the digital avenues that could be potentially exploited by highly targeted spyware.
At launch, Lockdown Mode, according to Apple, will include the following protection:
- Messages: Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.
- 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, while Lockdown Mode is turned on.
Targeted attacks are definitely a thing. CNET reports that Lockdown Mode could be effective in thwarting targeted hacking attempts like the Pegasus malware, which oppressive governments reportedly used on human rights workers, lawyers, politicians and journalists.
The company’s efforts to enhance its device security comes at a time when the tech industry is increasingly confronting targeted cyberattacks from oppressive governments around the world, according to CNET. Unlike widespread ransomware or virus campaigns, which are often designed to indiscriminately spread furthest and quickest through homes and corporate networks, attacks like those using Pegasus are designed for quiet intelligence gathering.