iPhone takes security to the next level
Published: July 7, 2022
Apple's most powerful iPhone security setting ever, Lockdown Mode, is an unexpected addition to iOS 16.
The new security model, which will also appear in macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16, is not for everyone. In fact, you might argue it's for a select few: those who believe they could be targeted by state-sponsored cybersecurity attacks. In other words, this is software for the President of the United States. It might also be for the head of your local power authority, water treatment plant, or a journalist covering the war in Ukraine. And thanks to Apple, anyone with an iPhone, it seems.
Lockdown Mode is Apple's new hardcore approach to security that, when enabled on an iPhone, will introduce five key protections, any one of which might make your iPhone less useful and fun, but also, apparently, a whole lot more secure.
These protections include.
Most message attachment types other than images are blocked and link previews are disabled.
It disables or blocks some Apple services like requests for incoming FaceTime calls from unknown callers (ones where you haven't previously initiated a Facetime call).
Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
You can't install configuration profiles and won't be able to enroll the device in mobile device management (MDM) when Lockdown Mode is enabled.
Together, all of these could significantly reduce attack avenues on your iPhone, and on your iPad and Mac, if you enable it on those systems, too.
In a release on Lockdown Mode, Apple says adding all three platforms to the security matrix "further hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware."
While this level of restricted access would feel like overkill for the average consumer or business person, many folks will find this Lockdown Mode useful, including those whose phones are connected to a variety of apps, services, and contracts relating to government, law enforcement, infrastructure, human rights groups, and news reporting.
For those working on the front line of human rights, Lockdown Mode might be a low-cost and efficient way of protecting their phones. It might also be a little too restrictive; there's a chance that it might be more effective in an official capacity.
Back in the day, government officials, including the US President, were handed specialized and highly-secure phones, though some reportedly kept using their personal iPhones(opens in new tab). iOS 16 Lockdown Mode, which is already appearing in Developer Beta 3, might be a way of giving officials their iPhone cake, while eating securely, too.
My Take: Good for you, Apple. Thanks for keeping us safe.