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Apple’s New Lock Mode for iPhone Fights Hacking

This story is part Focal Point iPhone 2022CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

What is happening

Apple is developing a new “lockdown mode” for its iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. It is designed to fight against industrial piracy like Pegasus from the NSO group.

why is it important

Although these attacks affect a small group of people, the threat is growing. Pegasus has been used by to spy on human rights activists, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple says it has identified similar attacks against people in 150 countries over the past eight months.

And after

Apple will release Lockdown Mode for free later this year and plans regular updates and improvements. The company has also expanded its bug bounties and set up a grant to encourage further research into the issue.

For years, Apple has marketed its iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers as the most secure and privacy-focused devices on the market. Last week, it bolstered that effort with a new feature coming this fall called Lockdown Mode, designed to combat targeted hacking attempts such as the Pegasus Malwarethat some governments allegedly used on human rights defenders, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple also announced a $10 million grant and a bug bounty of up to $2 million to encourage further research into this growing threat.

The tech giant said lockdown mode is designed to enable “extreme” protections on its phones, such as blocking attachments and link previews in messages, potentially hackable web browsing technologies and calls Incoming FaceTime from unknown numbers. Apple devices also won’t accept accessory connections unless the device is unlocked, and users can’t install new remote management software on devices when they’re also in locked mode. The new feature is already available in the running test software used by developers this summer and will be released free to the public in the fall as part of iOS16, iPadOS 16 and Mac OS Ventura. Here is how to use apple lock mode on iphone.

“While the vast majority of users will never fall victim to highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are,” said Ivan Krstic, head of engineering and security architecture at Apple, in a statement. “Lockdown Mode is a revolutionary capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from the rarest and most sophisticated attacks.”

Apple has designed Lock Mode to be easy to enable, through the Settings app on its devices.


Along with the new lockdown mode, which Apple calls an “extreme” measure, the company announced a $10 million grant to the Dignity and Justice Fund, which was established by the Ford Foundation, to help support people’s rights. man and to fight against social repression.

The company’s efforts to improve the security of its devices come at a time when the tech industry is increasingly facing targeted cyberattacks from oppressive governments around the world. Unlike generalized ransomware or virus campaigns, which are often designed to spread indiscriminately farthest and fastest through homes and corporate networks, attacks like those using Pegasus are designed for silent intelligence gathering. .

Read more: Why Apple is developing a new level of security for your iPhone

Users must restart their devices before lockdown mode activates.


Last September, Apple sent out a free software update that addressed to Pegasusand then he sued the NSO Group in order to prevent the company from developing or selling other hacking tools. It has also started sending “threat notifications” to potential victims of these hacking tools, which Apple calls “mercenary spyware.” The company said that although the number of people targeted in these campaigns is very small, it has notified people in about 150 countries since November.

Other tech companies have also broadened their approach to security in recent years. Google has an initiative called Advanced Account Protection, designed for “anyone at high risk of targeted online attacks” by adding additional layers of security to connections and downloads. Microsoft has been increasingly work to dump passwords.

Apple said it plans to expand lockdown mode over time and announced a bug bounty up to $2 million for people who find security flaws in the new feature. For now, it’s primarily designed to disable computer features that may be useful but open people up to potential attacks. This includes disabling certain fonts, link previews, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown accounts.

Read more: How to Use Apple’s Lock Mode to Protect Against an Industrial-Grade iPhone Hack

Apple representatives said the company is looking to strike a balance between usability and extreme protections, adding that the company is publicly committed to strengthening and improving functionality. In the most recent version of lockdown mode, which is sent to developers in a next test software update, apps that display web pages will follow the same restrictions as Apple’s apps, although users can pre-approve certain websites to bypass lockdown mode if needed. People in lock mode will also need to unlock their device before it connects to accessories.

Encourage more research

Additionally, Apple said it hopes a planned $10 million grant to the Dignity and Justice Fund will help encourage more research into these issues and expand training and safety audits for people. likely to be targeted.

“Every day we see these threats widen and deepen,” said Lori McGlinchey, director of the Ford Foundation’s Technology and Society program, which works with technical advisers, including Apple’s Krstić, to help lead the bottom. “In recent years, state and non-state actors have used spyware to track and intimidate human rights defenders, environmental activists and political dissidents in virtually every region of the world.”

Ron Deibert, professor of political science and director of Citizen Lab cybersecurity researchers at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said he expects lockdown mode to Apple is a “crushing blow” to spyware companies and governments that rely on their products. »

“We’re doing everything we can, alongside a number of investigative journalists working on that beat, but that’s it, and that’s a huge asymmetry,” he said, adding that Apple’s $10 million grant will help attract more work on this issue. “You have a huge industry that is very lucrative and almost entirely unregulated, enjoying huge contracts with governments that are keen to engage in this type of espionage.”

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