Apple’s Lockdown Mode is a preventive measure against sophisticated spyware attacks

Did iPhones get COVID too?

Apple initiated a new security measure called Lockdown mode to help users protect against spyware and other malware attacks.

The feature was created in response to state-sponsored spyware attacks that are actually sophisticated and hard to detect by normal means. Lockdown Mode would be available for iOS 16 coming this September as well as MacOS Ventura, and iPadOS 16.

Lockdown Mode severs applications where spyware could potentially enter your phone. When this feature is activated, it limits activities and features of certain apps and services, such as:

  • Messaging- Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.
  • Web Browsing- Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.
  • 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 (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.

Apple said it will continue bolstering Lockdown Mode and add new protections to it overtime. Apple has collaborated with several research firms as well as the cybersecurity community. Apple has also initiated a new bounty from its Apple Security Bounty Program to pay up to a maximum of USD 2 million for those who could bypass Lockdown Mode’s tight security.

In addition to the bounty, Apple is also offering a $10 million grant plus any damages awarded from the lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israel-based cyber arms company. The very same company that made the controversial Pegasus spyware that unconsciously tracked users, especially journalists, government agencies, and military organizations. It revealed users’ text messages, call logs, photos, email, videos, passwords, location, and contact lists. The CIA and FBI called it one of the most sophisticated spyware to ever hit iOS devices. It propagated through “zero-click” vulnerabilities of certain apps such as iMessage and Meta’s WhatsApp.

Source: Apple