Apple's Lockdown Mode for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura 13 will protect users from targeted spyware attacks

Jul 8, 2022

Apple has announced a new security feature called Lockdown Mode, to help protect users from targeted spyware attacks.

Apple's Lockdown Mode for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura will protect users from targeted spyware attacks

What does Lockdown Mode do?

In a nutshell, it restricts the functionality of apps which apps can run, what services they can access, in order to prevent users from being tracked by mercenary malware made by companies affiliated to Governments, aka state-sponsored attacks. Apple has, in the past, patched security issues related to such vulnerabilities in its operating systems.

We're not just talking about ad trackers and the sort, there has been a significant rise of mercenary spyware attacks in the past year or so, that target specific people. Such attacks are often zero-click or zero-touch in nature, i.e., it does not require any interaction from the user, it's not like phishing URLs or a downloaded file. Once the victim receives a malicious message (an attachment or link), their device becomes vulnerable and can be hacked via remote commands. On paper, it appears that Lockdown Mode can restrict such attack vectors, thus minimizing the risk.

Apple Lockdown Mode

Apple's announcement specifically mentions that it designed Lockdown mode to prevent the digital threats such as those from NSO Group, i.e. the people behind the Pegasus malware. If it can protect users from such attacks, this could be a real game changer in cybersecurity.

When Lockdown Mode has been turned on, you will need to restart the device.

Lockdown mode will block attachment types in messages (except images). Link previews will be disabled. Web technologies like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation will also be blocked in browsers like Safari, likely at the cost of performance. Users will be able to exclude sites by whitelisting them manually.

When Lockdown mode is active, the device will restrict incoming invitations and service requests from Apple. It will only allow FaceTime calls with contacts whom you have called previously. It sounds like an advanced Do Not Disturb mode that only allows trusted contacts to reach out to you.

Apple Lockdown mode iOS 16

(Image courtesy: Apple).

The security protocol will also block wired connections with a computer or accessory, so if you try plugging in your iPhone via a USB cable or a hub, it won't work, which probably means attackers who have physical access to the device may not be able to sideload some malware or execute commands to gain access to the content stored on the phone.

Lockdown mode will prevent the installation of configuration profiles and mobile device management (MDM). This should prove to be a roadblock for attackers who try to gain access to data tied to the account, or breach the device by installing a malicious certificate.

When will Lockdown Mode be available for users?

Lockdown Mode is currently available in macOS Ventura 13 Beta 3. You can access it from the System Settings > Privacy and Security tab. Apple will include Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, and iPadOS 16 too. The stable version of the operating systems will be released this Fall, sometime in September or October.

The Lockdown Mode may not be as useful for average users, but it could potentially help journalists, activists, and whistleblowers stay safer.

Apple's Lockdown Mode for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura will protect users from targeted spyware attacks
Article Name
Apple's Lockdown Mode for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura will protect users from targeted spyware attacks
Apple introduces a new defense option called Lockdown Mode for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura 13. It will protect users from targeted spyware attacks.
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  1. Anonee said on July 9, 2022 at 2:11 pm


    iOS is shaping up to be one of the best releases ever!

  2. Go Green said on July 9, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    Yuliya is correct. All we need to do is trust the Do-No-Evil Google and the 5,000 data brokers to respect our privacy.

    Seriously though, I’ve been wanting to buy a dumb 5G phone. Just calls, texting and sending pictures. This new secure category seems just the ticket. Think of the battery savings too!

    By disabling data analytics you greatly reduce the entire supply-chain carbon footprint. What a remarkable idea to save our planet. Thanks go to innovater Tim Cook!

    1. Yuliya said on July 9, 2022 at 10:33 pm

      Disable it! Open adb shell
      pm disable-user

  3. Yuliya said on July 8, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    All that can already be achieved on Android devices, even on stock firmware. Why are people losing their minds over this?

    1. Anonymous said on July 9, 2022 at 12:58 pm

      @Yuliya How exactly!

      1. Yuliya said on July 9, 2022 at 10:31 pm

        You can apply any change which that policy does manually. I’m applying most of them already myself as part of my first time setup.
        You can disable link previews in messages, which is something you should. You only receive a link and it’s up to you whether you open it or not. Bromite and Ungoogled-Chromium.
        JIT JS compilation can be disabled on any browser worth using. Unlike Safari, these browsers are also open-source.
        You can filter non-contacts from contacting you since forever on Android, so that’s nothing new here.
        Android can be confihured to never use radios to scan for nearby devices, which I’ve done, and can be configured to never exchange data over USB by default. It is literally in settings, and it has been there for over a decade.

      2. Go Green said on July 10, 2022 at 1:51 am

        Ungoogled Browser is frequently compromised by being built with proprietary Google linking tools and libraries. See
        Brave is nuch better but funky with distractions from ad and reward settings…
        Why bother when LibreWolf is especially good in rejecting fingerprinting and tracking? I use Librewolf with Enterprise LTSC, Debian Testing and Raspberry OS Pi400 and 8 essential privacy add-ons!

        I share this to not lead readers foolishly astray. I respectfully submit the only way for consumers to battle Google on its home turf is to decline the match.

        Apple has graciously modified its low-level firmware and OS which requires a reboot. This comprehensive yet convenient ONE-Check box solution shows they prioritize customer safety and privacy.

        Yuliya why don’t you combine your piecemeal settings into an approved Playstore app?

  4. John G. said on July 8, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Nice improvement! Thanks @Ashwin for the article. :]

  5. ECJ said on July 8, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    “…The Lockdown Mode may not be as useful for average users”

    I don’t see why not. If I had an iPhone I would absolutely enable this for myself, as the list of things it does sounds pretty good to me.

    I already have similar settings activated for Windows: for example I have new DMA devices disabled on the lock screen and I’ve had just-in-time (JIT) disabled in Edge for quite a while now and have not come across any issues.

    Disabling message attachment types other than images would cut down on scammers attaching obfuscated JavaScript, HTML, etc. file attachments to phish users.

    Link previews are both pointless and a privacy issue anyway.

    Blocking incoming invitations and service requests from strangers also sounds like something I would want.

    All in all, it all sounds good to me personally.

    Meanwhile on Android… Google invested $145 Million in a company (Glance) that wants to bring lock screen ads to Android smartphones. :vomit:

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