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Why the iPhone’s Secure New Lockdown Mode Isn’t for You

iPhone lockdown mode image

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

Apple announced Lockdown Mode today, which is coming to iOS 16 on iPhones, iPadOS 16 for iPads, and macOS Ventura for Mac computers. The company says it “offers 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 those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”

The new feature restricts some features on iPhones, iPads, and Macs that can theoretically be used to deliver malware — acting like a pre-emptive strike on newly-discovered security vulnerabilities before Apple can fix them for everyone. For example, Israeli security firm NSO Group has used various undisclosed vulnerabilities in iPhones for its ‘Pegasus’ malware, which has been purchased for surveillance by the United States, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, and other governments.

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

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Many Android devices also have a Lockdown mode, but that feature is more for temporary security rather than always-on features. Its primary purpose is to turn off biometric authentication, like face and fingerprint scanning, in the event someone (like police officers) might force you to unlock your phone. iPhones already have a similar feature, accessible by quickly pressing the power button five times in a row, then tapping on the ‘X’ button. Google also has an Advanced Protection option for Gmail accounts, which is closer to what Apple is offering with Lockdown mode and enforces more security measures.

Even though most people have no need for extreme security measures like this (if they keep their devices updated, anyway), it’s great to have for people in dangerous or compromising situations that still need a full smartphone.

Source: Apple Newsroom

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