Apple says a new feature in its iOS 16 will help block government spyware attempts

In its next iPhone and Mac software, Apple announced on Wednesday that it will add a new "Lockdown Mode" that will turn off specific functions to aid users in fending off government spyware.  

Apple's new Lockdown Mode will introduce five important security defenses, any of which may make your devices more restricted, but also, a lot more secure. This feature is the company's new rigorous approach to security which focuses on five main areas.

·        Besides photos, other message attachment types are restricted, and link previews are disallowed.

·        Some web technologies, such as JavaScript just-in-time (JIT) compilation, are disallowed in Safari. However, you can disable Lockdown mode for a reliable website.

·        Some Apple services, such as requests for incoming FaceTime calls from unknown callers are disabled or blocked.

·        When iPhone is locked, wired connections to a computer or device are disabled.

·        When Lockdown Mode is on, you will not be able to install configuration profiles or enroll the device in mobile device management (MDM).

Apple claimed that the new feature is an "extreme optional protection" for device users like reporters, activists, and human rights defenders, who are more likely to get attacked by national governments using potent spyware.

After years of persistent, successful attacks against thousands of iPhone owners worldwide, the feature finally becomes available. For the benefit of their government clients, spyware developers like NSO Group, Candiru, and Cytrox provide the technologies necessary to get past a device's security measures and install spyware.

Although Apple usually releases security updates for its products quickly, broader attempts to strengthen the security of its devices against such vulnerabilities were not always successful.

Government-grade spyware can frequently read messages, call records, download images, secretly record telephone conversations, use a device's microphone, capture photos using the phone's camera, access passwords, and monitor the phone's location in real time, according to security researchers.

The introduction of "Lockdown Mode" allows people who are the target of targeted spyware attempts to quickly deactivate a number of features, such as restricting the amount of code that can be executed in apps and websites and severely limiting the use of other Apple software features, like iMessage and FaceTime, which spyware developers have abused to create exploits that can install spyware on iPhones.

Apple claimed in a post that the new "lockdown" feature substantially reduces the attack surface that might ultimately be used by mercenary spyware. It further strengthens device security and strictly limits some functionality.

The installation of configuration profiles, which are frequently used by businesses to deploy settings and security safeguards across fleets of devices but are also exploited by consumer-grade spyware to track and covertly download the contents from devices, will be prevented on iPhones and Macs by the new iOS feature. When Lockdown Mode is activated, wired connections are also disabled, preventing spyware tools from obtaining access to a device's data.

Last year Apple warned its users including authorities, that they'd been the target of "state-sponsored attackers". In November 2021, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO (opens in new tab), which NSO has refuted as the maker of the spying software.



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