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What is Apple’s new Lockdown Mode for its iPhone devices?

What is the new Lockdown Mode of Apple for its devices?

Apple has announced a new security mode that will be available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers with the next update to their respective operating systems in the fall.

Lockdown Mode or Blocking Mode is a function that the company presents as “the first of its kind” and is aimed at the percentage of users of its devices that may be the target of sophisticated security threats designed by private companies and used by governments and law enforcement agencies. intelligence, “such as those of NSO Group and other private companies.”

NSO Group is the Israeli company that created the Pegasus software that in 2021 infected the mobile phone of the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and three ministers and has given rise to the Pegasus Case.

This “extreme” protection option is optional and increases the security of the device on which it is activated by reducing the “attack area” used by these spyware tools. To do this, Lockdown Mode protects the following aspects of device operation:

  • Messages: Most message attachments other than images will be blocked. Some features, like link previews, will be disabled.
  • Web browsing: Certain complex web technologies, such as just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, will be disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from blocking mode.
  • Apple Services: Incoming service requests and invitations, including FaceTime calls, will be blocked if the user has not previously sent a call or request to the initiator.
  • Wired connections to a computer or accessory will be blocked when iPhone is locked.
  • Configuration profiles will not be able to be installed and the device will also not be able to access mobile device management (MDM).
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According to Apple, this mode is intended to add a new layer of protection for people who are particularly exposed to spyware; this can be from human rights defenders to political dissidents and journalists.

Apple said the spyware attacks the new feature is designed to combat — called “zero-click” hacking techniques — are still relatively rare and most users won’t need to activate the new mode.

The new isolation mode is not immediately available. We will have to wait until the fall to see its arrival in iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura, although those who use beta versions of the aforementioned operating systems will probably have the possibility to get their hands on it in advance. Also, Apple says that it will continue to improve “Lockdown Mode” over time, so we could see an evolution of this functionality.

“While the vast majority of users will never fall victim to high-level cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who do. That includes continuing to design defences specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critical work to expose the mercenary companies creating these digital attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Head of Engineering and Apple Security Architecture, in the company’s statement.

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Lockdown Mode: Here’s what will happen

According to Apple, when lock mode is turned on, most attachments in the Messages app will be locked. Only images will be allowed. Features like link previews etc. will be deactivated.

When browsing the web, some “complex web technologies, such as just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled.” Only if a user excludes a trusted site from blocking mode will it be allowed.

Also, Apple will block all incoming invitations, and service requests, including FaceTime, calls from strangers. FaceTime calls will be blocked if the user has not previously sent a call or request to the initiator, the statement said. Wired connections to a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.

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