Apple is building a lockdown mode to protect users from govt spyware attacks

Valentine Muhamba Avatar
Apple Lockdown mode, security, iOS

Apple has announced that it is working on a lockdown mode that is aimed at protecting high-risk users like journalists and political activists from government spyware attacks. The measure is to counter government-grade spyware from makers like NSO Group, Candiru and Cytrox who have built programs that manoeuvre around a device’s security protections in order to plant spyware at the behest of their government clients.

“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market. Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,”

“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. That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture.

At launch, Lockdown Mode includes the following protections and features: 

  • Messages: 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 enrol into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.
Apple Lockdown mode
Image Credit: Apple (via Blog Post)

Apple said that it is also making available a US$10 million grant, in addition to any damages awarded from the lawsuit filed against NSO Group, to support organizations that investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.

Read: Govt officials with US ties were targeted by NSO’s Pegasus spyware according to WhatsApp

Lockdown mode is according to apple coming to Apple devices that can run iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura this fall (Between September to November for us in the southern hemisphere).

Cover Image Credit: Apple Developer

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  1. Anonymous

    It’s called marketing strategy don’t be fooled coz their sales have been going downhill. If the US wants to spy they will just ask Apple to do it for them.

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