Apple today announced a new Lockdown Mode coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. Apple says the optional security feature is designed to protect the “very small number” of users who may be at risk of “highly targeted cyberattacks” from private companies developing state-sponsored spyware, such as journalists, activists, and government employees.
Apple says Lockdown Mode is enabled in the third beta versions of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura released today, and the feature will be available to all users when the software updates are released later this year. While the feature is aimed at users who are targets of cyberattacks, it appears that it can be enabled by any user.
Lockdown Mode is turned off by default and can be enabled in the Privacy & Security section of the Settings or System Settings app. After being turned on, Lockdown Mode can be turned off at any time in the same section of the Settings app. Enabling or disabling Lockdown Mode requires restarting the device and entering the device’s passcode.
When enabled, Apple says Lockdown Mode provides an “extreme” level of security by strictly limiting or disabling the functionality of features, apps, and websites. At launch, Lockdown Mode will include the following protections:
- In the Messages app, most message attachment types other than images are blocked, and some features like link previews are unavailable.
- Incoming FaceTime calls from people you have not previously called are blocked. Incoming invitations for other Apple services from people you have not previously invited are also blocked.
- Shared albums will be removed from the Photos app, and new shared album invitations will be blocked.
- When a device is locked, wired connections with other devices/accessories are blocked.
- 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 to add new protections to Lockdown Mode over time. Apple has added a new category to its Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections, with bounties to be doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2 million.
“Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering, in a press release shared today. “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.”
Apple also announced it is making a $10 million grant to the Ford Foundation’s Dignity and Justice Fund to support organizations that investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks. Apple said it will also be donating any damages awarded from its lawsuit filed against NSO Group, creator of the spyware Pegasus.
Last year, Apple began notifying users who may have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers via email and iMessage notifications.
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