Why iPhone’s New Secure Lock Mode Isn’t For You

Digital security is always difficult, but most people don’t have to worry about being targeted by the latest spyware. For people who do worry about that, Apple is introducing a new lock mode on its devices.

Apple today announced Lockdown Mode, which is coming to iOS 16 for iPhones, iPadOS 16 for iPads, and macOS Ventura for Mac computers. The company says it “provides an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as than those of NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.

The new feature restricts certain features of iPhones, iPads and Macs that can theoretically be used to spread malware, acting as a preemptive strike on newly discovered security vulnerabilities before Apple can fix them for everyone. For example, Israeli security firm NSO Group used various undisclosed vulnerabilities in iPhones for its “Pegasus” malware, which was purchased to be monitored by the United States, Mexico, United Arab Emiratesand other governments.

Lockdown mode blocks all iMessage attachments other than images (and disables link previews), disables JavaScript Just-In-Time (JIT) compilation for web browsing (unless site is added to a list of permission), blocks FaceTime calls from unknown contacts, turns off all wired connections on iPhones after they’re locked, and blocks configuration profiles. Some of these changes are drastic — web browsers can be noticeably slower without JIT – but they cut off many potential attack vectors without rendering the device completely unusable.

Many Android devices also have a lock mode, but this feature is more for temporary security than permanent functionality. Its main purpose is to disable biometric authentication, like face and fingerprint scanning, in case someone (like police officers) may require you to unlock your phone. iPhones already have a similar feature, accessed by quickly pressing the power button five times in a row, then pressing the “X” button. Google also offers an advanced protection option for Gmail accounts, which is closer to what Apple offers with lock mode and applies more security measures.

While most people don’t need extreme security measures like this (if they keep their devices up to date, anyway), it’s great to have for people in dangerous situations or compromising who still need a full smartphone.

Source: Apple Newsroom

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