On Wednesday Apple announced the introduction of a new security setting for iOS 15, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura which would ‘harden device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities”.
Apple described the new feature, the Lockdown Mode, as an “extreme, optional protection” which is designed for the severe type of cyberattacks most people will never experience.
Perhaps the greatest application of the Lockdown Mode will be against private company spyware the likes of Pegasus, the notorious NSO software which is used to hack into iPhones and monitor people remotely.
When turned on, Lockdown mode will severely limit the freedom the user has on their phone’s applications, blocking certain message attachment types, disabling link previews, removing support for hared albums in Photos, and preventing incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers.
John Davis, Director UK & Ireland, SANS Institute says; “Mobile users need to be wary of suspicious SMS/iMessage notes, or mechanisms around “overlay” applications. These are designed to look like legitimate applications, but instead contain trojans developed to steal user data to send to malicious third parties.”
Other restrictions cut off wired connections with a computer or accessory when an iPhone is locked and, most importantly, prohibit configuration profiles — a feature that’s been abused to sideload apps bypassing the App Store — from being installed.
Apple noted that they plan to continue to add to the countermeasures present in Lockdown Mode and that “qualifying findings” will be eligible for up to $2 million in bug bounties.
Google and Meta offer analogous software features known as Advanced Account Protection and Facebook Protect that are meant to secure the accounts of individuals who are at an “elevated risk of targeted online attacks” from takeover attempts. But it won’t be surprising if Google follows suit with a similar feature on Android.