Apple Lockdown Mode

Apple introduced ‘Lockdown’ mode, a security setting that gives specialized additional protection to users who may be at risk of highly targeted cyber attacks from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.

According to the announcement released by Apple, “Lockdown Mode is the first major capability of its kind designed to offer an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security”.

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Apple introduced this Lockdown Mode for its upcoming iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura software.

The Protections of the Apple Lockdown Mode

Apple says turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura additionally strengthen device defenses and firmly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.

The protections include, that most message attachment types other than images are blocked in messages. Some features, like link previews, are disabled. In web browsing, complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.

Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request in Apple services. Also, wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.

Most significantly, configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.

It is essential to notice that the Lockdown feature will not be switched on by default, but can be accessed by heading to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode.

Apple invites feedback from the security experts and declared a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. The company fixed a maximum of $2,000,000 — the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry.

Lori McGlinchey, the Ford Foundation’s director of its Technology and Society program says, “The global spyware trade targets human rights defenders, journalists, and dissidents; it facilitates violence, reinforces authoritarianism, and supports political repression,”

“The Ford Foundation is proud to support this extraordinary initiative to bolster civil society research and advocacy to resist mercenary spyware. We must build on Apple’s commitment, and we invite companies and donors to join the Dignity and Justice Fund and bring additional resources to this collective fight”, he added.

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Gurubaran is a co-founder of Cyber Security News and GBHackers On Security. He has 10+ years of experience as a Security Consultant, Editor, and Analyst in cybersecurity, technology, and communications.