iOS 16 and macOS Ventura will have Lockdown Mode against spyware

THE apple just announced a new security feature called Lockdown Mode (Block Mode), which will reach the iOS 16to iPadOS 16 and to macOS Ventura 13to “protect users from highly targeted mercenary spyware”, such as the controversial Pegasus, from the NSO Group – which has claimed several victims around the world.

We’re talking about an optional feature, aimed primarily at users facing “serious and targeted threats to their digital security,” as described by Apple. In this sense, when the function is activated, the system will block certain content and features. Between them:

  • Messages: Most types of message attachments, except images, will be blocked. Some features such as link previews will be disabled.
  • web browsing: Certain complex technologies such as JavaScript compilation just-in-time (JIT), will be disabled unless the user deletes a trusted site from Block Mode.
  • Apple Services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, will be blocked if the user has not previously sent a call or request to the caller.
  • Wired connections to a computer or accessory will be blocked when iPhone is in mode.
  • Configuration profiles cannot be installed and the device cannot register with mobile device management (MDM) while Lock Mode is enabled.

In other words, the mechanism will strengthen device security by limiting system functionality. While Apple says it “has a good balance between usability and security” with the feature, it’s not designed for regular users.

In addition to functionality, Apple is also inviting security researchers to find flaws/vulnerabilities in Lockdown Mode through its Security Bounty program. Researchers can earn rewards of up to $2 million — double the previous cap and the highest reward payout in the industry.

In addition, Apple is also making a donation of $10 millionplus any proceeds from the lawsuit against the NSO Group, for organizations that “investigate, expose and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks”.

Lock Mode is now available in the third beta of iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura 13.

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