Apple to roll out ‘lockdown’ feature in fall systems update


(NEXSTAR) – Apple users will soon have the opportunity to lock down their iPhone, iPad, and Mac as part of a new way to protect against “the most sophisticated digital threats.”

This fall, Apple says it will introduce “Lockdown Mode” as part of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura.

Described as “an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security,” Lockdown Mode limits some functionalities, like blocking FaceTime calls from people you haven’t called before and some web browsing features.

Lockdown Mode will also block most message attachments, disable features like link previews, and limit web browsing abilities. Users also won’t be able to connect to computers while their phone is on the lock screen, or use a mobile device management program some have on their work phones. These features, according to The Verge, are known to be vulnerable to cyberattacks.

The Lockdown Mode capability further hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that could potentially be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware. (Courtesy Apple)

The new feature is designed to protect those at high risk of an attack “because of who they are or what they do,” Apple explains, such as journalists or human rights workers.

Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture, called Lockdown Mode “a groundbreaking capability,” in a Wednesday release.

“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,” he adds.

Private companies like Israel’s NSO Group have been selling phone hacking software to government agencies around the world for years.

Last year, Apple filed a federal lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group for breaking into iPhones and other Apple products. In its complaint, Apple accused NSO Group employees of being “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.”

NSO, which has been blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department, has denied any wrongdoing and said its products have been used to thwart child abusers and terrorists.

On Wednesday, Apple also announced more details about a $10 million grant it pledged last November to help counter large-scale hacking attacks. The money, in addition to any damages awarded from the lawsuit against NSO Group, will go to the Dignity and Justice Fund, a philanthropic arm of the Ford Foundation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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