Apple to protect high-profile users with a new “Lockdown Mode” for iPhones, iPads, and Macs

Apple announced today that it will be adding a new feature called “Lockdown Mode” to the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac. Developed to prevent attackers from exploiting a vulnerability discovered in Apple’s software, at least two Israeli firms have already exploited this vulnerability and were able to break into iPhone units remotely without the user of the target iPhone tapping a button on the display.
The Pegasus software, which can be used for such an attack, uses GIFs to exploit iMessages. The developers of Pegasus have been sued by Apple and have been placed on a U.S. trade blacklist. Security researchers believe that the vulnerability is found in how Apple’s software handles message attachments. That is why enabling “Lockdown Mode” will block most attachments sent to the iPhone’s messages app.
Besides blocking message attachments, enabling “Lockdown Mode” will block link previews, block invitations and Face Time Calls from unknown senders. It will also turn off certain web browsing technology by default, shut down wired connections to computers, and more. The feature is reportedly aimed at protecting people in high-visibility jobs who could find themselves being targeted by spyware; such positions include politicians, activists, and journalists.

Some state-sponsored activities include taking advantage of vulnerabilities found in the software used by popular mobile devices which includes the iPhone. Apple points out that “Lockdown Mode is an extreme optional protection that should only be used if you believe you may be personally targeted by a highly sophisticated cyberattack. Most people are never targeted by attacks of this nature.”

Apple adds, “When iPhone is in Lockdown Mode, it will not function as it typically does. Apps, websites, and features will be strictly limited for security, and some experiences will be completely unavailable.

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

Krstić continued by adding, “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.”

The new feature will be optional for users of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. Apple says that over time it will strengthen the capabilities of “Lockdown Mode” and add more protections for users.


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