Apple has unveiled a new security mechanism to shield high-risk consumers from cyberattacks including malware.
With the next operating system, Lockdown Mode will soon be accessible on all iPhones, iPads, and Macs made by the firm. The option restricts calls from unidentified users and inhibits certain functions. It follows the spyware infection of Apple devices used by journalists, lawmakers, and activists.
Apple is presently suing Israeli spyware company NSO Group, alleging that it used its potent Pegasus spyware to target people in 150 different nations. The company’s software might infect both Android and iPhone gadgets, enabling users to extract emails, images, and messages, record phone conversations, and covertly turn on microphones and cameras.
NSO Group argues that it only provides Pegasus to armed forces, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations from nations with strong reputations for respecting human rights. The company claims that its tools are designed to target terrorists and criminals.
Apple came under fire from privacy and security experts in July when the scope of the suspected surveillance was made public.
It swiftly sent an urgent software update to all devices to close the hole that Pegasus had been utilizing covertly for years. The business is now introducing Lockdown Mode as a broader security feature that it says can shield devices from all known malware available right now.
The following safeguards will be present during Lockdown Mode:
- Messages: All attachment kinds besides photos are restricted. Link previews are among the functions that are disabled.
- Calls: If a user does not already have a call or request from the originator, incoming invites, including FaceTime calls, are prohibited.
- When the iPhone is locked, wired connections to a computer or device are prevented.
Lockdown Mode will be available to all users in the device settings at launch, but Apple advises against using it unless you are in particular danger from what it terms “mercenary spyware assaults,” such as a journalist or an opposition figure in an oppressive regime.
Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture said:
“While the vast majority of users will never be victims of highly targeted cyber-attacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are,”
Apple declared that it will raise the reward amount to $2 million (£1.7 million) for ethical hackers who find security holes in Lockdown Mode. The US company will also provide $10 million to a foundation that assists organizations in exposing the improper use of spyware.
“The global spyware trade targets human rights defenders, journalists, and dissidents, and facilitates violence, reinforces authoritarianism, and supports political repression,” said Lori McGlinchey, director, of technology and society at the Ford Foundation, which will oversee the grant.
The software has “allowed foreign governments to undertake translational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian countries targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists,” according to US officials who placed NSO Group on a trade blacklist in November. Additionally, WhatsApp is bringing legal action against NSO Group, claiming that the latter used the messaging platform to disseminate Pegasus.