Apple adds a lock mode to protect its operating systems from cyber attacks

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Turning on Lockdown Mode will require users to enable the corresponding option in Settings.app and restart their devices. This action will harden the OS defenses and limit a number of functionalities, thus reducing the attack surface available to cyberattackers. In Lockdown Mode, messages will not display attachments, such as images, or link previews. Additionally, JavaScript JIT will be disabled by default for all websites that have not been whitelisted. Similarly, all Apple Services, including Facetime, will block any requests from unknown call initiators. Finally, wired connections with a computer or accessory will be blocked while the device is locked and mobile device management and configuration profiles will not be available.

The newly introduced Lockdown Mode from Apple, which is now accessible in the most recent betas of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura, seeks to offer consumers at danger of highly targeted Cyberattacks an additional layer of protection. For the extremely few individuals who may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other commercial organisations creating state-sponsored mercenary malware, Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, discretionary level of security.

Highlights

  • This concern is clearly reflected in the way Apple is targeting the announcement of its new security feature to the “very few users” who might need it, in spite of the fact that Lockdown Mode will be a general feature of Apple OSes available to all users. While the list of features disabled in Lockdown Mode could indeed seem to have the potential to cripple down user experience, commenters on Hacker News pointed out this could not be entirely the case. Others voiced the idea that the kind of features Lockdown Mode disables are exactly those they would not like to have in a phone in the first place.

  • Apple says Lockdown Mode is the first major capability of this kind available in its OSes, hinting at the possibility that more advanced capabilities will be added in future. One of the common mental barriers that prevent platform and OS developers from adding high-security features is the fear that this will make user experience worse and break features, says Citizen Lab senior researcher John Scott-Railton.

Apple is actively seeking feedback from researchers and to this aim has established a new category in its Bounty Program doubling the bounties for findings affecting Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000. Sergio De Simone is a software engineer. Sergio has been working as a software engineer for over fifteen years across a range of different projects and companies, including such different work environments as Siemens, HP, and small startups. For the last few years, his focus has been on development for mobile platforms and related technologies. He is currently working for BigML, Inc., where he leads iOS and OS X development. Becoming an editor for InfoQ was one of the best decisions of my career. It has challenged me and helped me grow in so many ways. We’d love to have more people join our team.

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