Apple will release Lockdown Mode for free later this year and says it’s planning regular updates and improvements. The company has also expanded its bug bounties and established a grant to encourage further research toward this issue. Apple for years 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 fight targeted hacking attempts such as the Pegasus malware, which some governments reportedly used on human rights workers, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple also announced a $10 million grant and up to $2 million bug bounty to encourage further research into this growing threat.
This article is a part of CNET’s collection of news, suggestions, and guidance about Apple’s best-selling product, Focal Point iPhone 2022. Apple is creating a new “Lockdown Mode” for its Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads. It’s made to combat sophisticated hacking techniques like Pegasus from the NSO Group. Even though only a small number of people experience these attacks, the danger is increasing. Pegasus was employed by to spy on journalists, attorneys, politicians, and human rights advocates all across the world. Apple claims that over the previous eight months, it has discovered similar attacks on consumers in 150 different countries.
The tech giant said that Lockdown Mode is designed to activate “extreme” protections to its phones, such as blocking attachments and link previews in messages, potentially hackable web browsing technologies, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers. Apple devices will also not accept accessory connections unless the device is unlocked, and people can’t install new remote management software on the devices while they’re in Lockdown Mode as well. The new feature is already available in test software being used by developers this summer and will be released for free publicly in the fall as part of iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and MacOS Ventura. Here’s how to use Apple’s Lockdown mode on an iPhone.
The company’s efforts to enhance its device security comes at a time when the tech industry is increasingly confronting targeted cyberattacks from oppressive governments around the world. Unlike widespread ransomware or virus campaigns, which are often designed to indiscriminately spread furthest and quickest through homes and corporate networks, attacks like those using Pegasus are designed for quiet intelligence gathering.
“While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, in a statement. “Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks.” 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 human rights and fight social repression.
“Every day we see these threats broadening and deepening,” said Lori McGlinchey, director of the Ford Foundation’s Technology and Society program, who is working with technical advisers including Apple’s Krstić to help direct the fund. “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, a professor of political science and director of the Citizen Lab cybersecurity researchers at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, said he expects Apple’s Lockdown Mode will be a “major blow” to spyware companies and the governments who rely on their products.”
“We’re doing all we can, alongside a number of investigative journalists working this beat, but that’s been it, and that’s a huge asymmetry,” he said, adding that Apple’s $10 million grant will help attract more work toward this issue. “You have an enormous industry that’s very lucrative and almost entirely unregulated, profiting from huge contracts from governments that have an appetite to engage in this type of espionage.”