Apple Lockdown Mode adds ‘extreme’ protection to your iPhone, iPad and Mac

Apple takes steps to improve security for people like journalists, activists and politicians with a new setting in iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura called Lockdown Mode† This setting hardens the defenses of an iPhone, iPad, or Mac in ways that disrupt the methods we’ve seen to compromise devices for highly targeted attacks.

Lock mode blocks many types of message attachments, disables link previews, disables certain web browser technology by default, blocks invitations and FaceTime calls from unknown sources, locks wired connections to computers or accessories while the device is locked, and disables the ability to add from new configuration profiles or enroll in mobile device management (MDM).

These are the areas we know could be vulnerable, like Google’s Project Zero team detailed how iPhones belonging to people targeted by the Pegasus software can be compromised in a “zero-click” scenario by using a GIF to exploit iMessage in the background. Other attacks have repeatedly targeted MDM Solutions or malicious websites used to exploit errors in rendering, and Lockdown mode closes those doors from the start.

Lock Mode Screen in iOS 16

Lock Mode Screen in iOS 16
Image: Apple

Apple calls it an “extreme, optional” level of protection that is a clear response to the increasing use of state-sponsored software for mercenaries, such as the Pegasus tool developed by NSO Group. Evidence of the software has been found on the devices of journalists like Jamal Khashoggi. According to Bloomberg news reporter Mark GurmanApple just released iOS 16 Developer Beta 3, which includes Lockdown mode.

In recent years, Apple has been criticized for not collaborating with security researchers as much to spot and patch flaws in its platforms as other major tech companies. launch of iOS bug bounty program in 2016† It eventually expanded the program to cover other devices in 2019 while it said it would distribute dedicated security research devices to outside researchers.

According to Ivan Krstić, Apple’s chief of security engineering and architecture, “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 that do. That includes moving forward.” designing defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world who are doing critically important work unmasking mercenaries carrying out these digital attacks.”

Introducing the new operating systems at WWDC 2022 in June, Apple said its new Rapid Security Response feature will enable patches for security vulnerabilities that roll out faster and take effect on a Mac without the need for a reboot. iOS 16 and macOS Ventura are also set to record support for new password technology that will help eliminate the use of passwords.

Other tech companies have made similar efforts in certain ways, such as: Google’s Advanced Security Program for his accounts or the Super Duper Safe Mode Microsoft started testing in Edge last fall. Some Small Businesses Have Tried It Too offering hardened devices with Android which promises protection against various vulnerabilities, but the Lockdown Mode is a new level of security that will be available to millions of people once it launches later this year with the new software updates.

Even with these protections, finding vulnerabilities in the operating systems that power so many devices is a worthwhile endeavor, and Apple says it will double the premium for “qualifying findings” in Lockdown mode to $2 million, which it believes is the highest maximum premium. is in the industry. Apple also says that any damages it awarded from a lawsuit filed against NSO Group last fall will be added to a $10 million grant to support organizations that “investigate, uncover and prevent highly targeted cyber-attacks, including those from private companies developing state-sponsored spyware for mercenaries.”

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