Apple today announced that it will add a new feature called Lockdown Mode to iPhone, iPad and Mac. Designed to prevent attackers from exploiting a vulnerability discovered in Apple’s software, at least two Israeli companies have already exploited this vulnerability and have been able to remotely intrude into iPhone devices without the target iPhone’s user pressing any button on the display .
The Pegasus software that can be used for such an attack uses GIFs to exploit iMessages. The developers of Pegasus were sued by Apple and placed on a US trade list. Security researchers believe the vulnerability lies in how Apple’s software handles message attachments. That’s why enabling “lockdown mode” blocks most attachments being sent to the iPhone’s Messages app.
In addition to blocking message attachments, enabling “block mode” blocks link previews, invites, and Face Time calls from unknown senders. It also disables certain web browser technologies by default, terminates wired connections to computers, and more. The feature reportedly aims to protect people in high-visibility jobs who might be targeted by spyware; Such positions include politicians, activists and journalists.
When locked mode is activated, it protects you when you are attacked by a powerful cyber attack
Some government-sponsored activities include exploiting vulnerabilities found in software used by popular mobile devices, including the iPhone. Apple notes that “lockdown mode is an extreme optional protection that should only be used when you think you may be personally targeted by a sophisticated cyber attack. Most people are never attacked by attacks of this type.”
Apple adds: “When the iPhone is in lock mode, it doesn’t work as usual. Apps, websites, and features will be severely restricted for security reasons, and some features will be completely unavailable.
Ivan Krstić, Apple’s Head of Security Engineering and Architecture, said: “Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market. Lockdown Mode is a breakthrough feature that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest and most sophisticated attacks. The vast majority of users will never fall victim to highly targeted cyber attacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are.”
Krstić continued, adding, “This includes continuing to develop countermeasures specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world who are doing extremely important work to uncover mercenary companies creating these digital attacks.”
The new feature will be optional for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura users. Apple says that over time it will strengthen “lockdown mode” capabilities and add more protections for users.