This story is part ofCNET’s collection of news, tips, and advice on Apple’s most popular products.
What is happening
Apple is developing a new “lockdown mode” for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It is designed to fight industrial piracy like NSO Group’s Pegasus.
why does it matter
Although these attacks happen to a small group of people, the threat is growing. Pegasus has been used to spy on human rights activists, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple says it has identified similar attacks on people in 150 countries over the past eight months.
Apple will release Lockdown mode for free later this year and says it plans regular updates and improvements. The company also expanded its rewards and created a grant to encourage further research into this problem.
For years Apple has marketed its iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices as the most secure and privacy-focused devices on the market. Last week, it bolstered that effort with a new feature coming this fall called Lockdown Mode, designed to combat targeted hacking attempts such aswhich some governments around the world. Apple also announced a $10 million grant and a $2 million bug bounty to encourage further research into this growing threat.
The tech giant said Lockdown Mode is designed to activate “maximum” protections for its phones, such as blocking attachments and link previews in messages, potentially hacked web browsing technologies, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers. Apple devices also won’t accept accessory connections unless the device is unlocked, and people can’t install new remote management software on devices while they’re locked, either. The new feature is already available in the ongoing testing programIt will be released free to the public in the fall as part of And the And the . over here .
“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,” he said. Ivan Kristek, chief of Apple’s security engineering and engineering division, said in a statement. “Lock mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting users from even the rarest and most sophisticated attacks.”
Along with the new Lockdown mode, which Apple calls an “extreme” measure, the company announced a $10 million grant to the Dignity and Justice Fund, set up by the Ford Foundation, to help support human rights and fight social oppression.
The company’s efforts to bolster the security of its devices come at a time when the technology industry is increasingly facing targeted cyberattacks from repressive governments around the world. Unlike widespread ransomware or virus campaigns, which are often designed to indiscriminately spread farther and faster through homes and corporate networks, attacks like those using Pegasus are designed to gather quiet intelligence.
Last September, Apple sent out a free software updateand then In an effort to prevent the company from developing or selling more hacking tools. It has also begun sending “threat notifications” to potential victims of these hacking tools, which Apple calls “mercenary spyware.” The company said that while the number of people targeted in these campaigns is very small, it has notified people in about 150 countries since November.
Other technology companies have also expanded their approach to security in recent years. Google has an initiative called Advanced Account Protection, which is designed for “anyone at increased risk of targeted online attacks” by adding additional layers of security to. Microsoft has been increasingly .
Apple said it plans to expand Lockdown Mode over time, and announced a fileUp to $2 million for people who find security holes in the new feature. Currently, it is mainly designed to disable computer features that might be useful but expose people to potential attacks. This includes turning off some fonts, link previews, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown accounts.
Apple representatives said the company has sought a balance between usability and maximum protection, adding that the company is publicly committed to strengthening and improving the feature. In the latest iteration of Lockdown Mode, which is sent to developers in the formatApps that display web pages will follow the same restrictions as Apple apps, although people can pre-approval on some websites to circumvent the lockout mode if necessary. Locked people will also have to unlock their device before you can connect to the accessory.
Encourage more research
In addition, Apple said it hopes that a planned $10 million grant to the Dignity and Justice Fund will help encourage more research on these issues and expand training and security audits of people who may be targeted.
“Every day we see these threats widening and deepening,” said Lori McGlinchey, director of the Technology and Society Program at the Ford Foundation, which works with technical advisors including Apple’s Krstić to help guide the fund. “In recent years, state and non-state actors have used spyware to track and intimidate human rights defenders, environmental activists, and political opponents in almost every region of the world.”
Ron Diebert, a professor of political science and director of Citizen Lab cybersecurity researchers at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said he expects Apple’s security situation to be a “huge blow” to spyware companies and governments that rely on its products.
“We’re doing everything we can, along with a number of investigative journalists working with this impulse, but that’s it, and that’s a huge disparity,” he said, adding that Apple’s $10 million grant would help attract more work toward This issue. “You have a massive, highly profitable industry that is almost completely unregulated, and benefits from huge contracts from governments that have an appetite to engage in this kind of espionage.”
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