iPhone maker apple has announced the launch of a new feature called the ‘Lockdown Mode’ that offers an additional layer of protection to users who may be at risk of highly targeted hacking attacks.
apple says the optional feature is aimed at offering ‘extreme’ protection for a ‘very small number of users’, such as journalists, human rights advocates and political dissidents, who could be subject to attacks like those launched by the clients of NSO Group or other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.
The feature will come to iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura towards the end of September. The US tech giant’s move comes after at least two Israeli firms, NSO Group and Cellebrite, have exploited flaws in Apple’s software to remotely break into iPhones without the target needing to click or tap anything.
NSO Group, which makes the sophisticated spyware Pegasus and licenses it to government agencies and law-enforcement authorities around the world, has been sued by Apple in the US.
Toggling on ‘Lockdown Mode’ from the privacy menu of the settings app will strictly limit certain functionalities after a warning message to the users.
When the tool is active, most types of attachments on messages will be blocked and some features like link previews will be disabled. Incoming FaceTime calls will be blocked if the user has not previously called the initiator or sent a request for a call.
The new mode will also block wired connections to iPhones when the handsets are locked. Configuration profiles, such as profiles for school or work, cannot be installed while some web technologies and browsing features will be blocked.
Apple also said it would pay researchers a security bounty of as much as $2 million if they find ways to bypass ‘Lockdown Mode’ and help improve its protections. Apple said it will continue to strengthen the mode and add new protections to it over time.