Apple has announced adding a new feature to iOS devices dubbed the Lockdown Mode. This feature aims to protect Apple users from “highly targeted mercenary spyware,” revealed Apple’s official blog post on the announcement.

What is Lockdown Mode?

The newly introduced security capability will act as additional, specialized protection for the Apple device to prevent targeted cyberattacks or spying campaigns, particularly from state-sponsored spies/hackers.

Though a small fraction of users may be at the risk of targeted spying, it is still a welcome addition for iOS users. Users who may become targets of threat actors because of who they are or what they do, especially users targeted by the NSO Group or private hackers, would benefit the most from this feature. These include human rights activities, political nonconformists, protestors, journalists, etc.

The Lockdown Mode will automatically lock down all hijackable system functionalities so that even the most advanced hackers cannot compromise the device.

Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstić, called it a “groundbreaking capability” reflecting Apple’s “unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks.”

Lockdown Mode Capabilities

According to Apple’s blog post, after Lockdown Mode is formally available on iOS devices, it will perform the following functions to protect the device.

  • Blocking/disabling link previews and attachments in messages.
  • Blocking wired connection with any computer, device, or accessory if the iPhone is locked.
  • Disabling just-in-time JavaScript compilation except if the user has excluded some website from blocking.
  • Blocking incoming service requests, invitations, and FaceTime calls from unknown users, allowing calls/requests from senders the device user has previously contacted.
  • Blocking configuration profiles installation and enrollment of the device in MDM (mobile device management).
Apple Debuts Lockdown Mode to Prevent State-Sponsored Spying

Lockdown Mode Official Launching

The Lockdown Mode will be rolled out in late September 2022. It will be introduced on iOS 16, macOS Ventura, and iPadOS 16. Initially, it will be offered as a test version for researchers to help the company detect security flaws and bugs.

It is worth noting that Apple offered a $10 million reward to cybersecurity researchers working on improving Lockdown Mode defenses and a $2 million bug bounty to those who detect security flaws.

The introduction of Lockdown Mode highlights that not even the world’s most valuable company can protect its products from state-backed intrusion or commercial spyware. 

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