In the context: Apple has been raising the alarm for months about what it calls government-supported spyware. The company now confirms that its upcoming major operating system updates will contain a radical new security feature to address this issue. He says most users will probably never need it.

- Advertisement -

When iOS 16, iPad OS 16, and macOS Venture release later this year, they will introduce a new feature called Lock mode, which will severely limit communications to thwart spyware. Apple has accused groups such as the NSO and RCS Labs of developing spyware that has been used in recent targeted political cyberattacks.

- Advertisement -

Lockdown mode locks the security features on Apple devices when turned on. The Messages app will disable link previews and block most attachments except images. Web browsers will disable features such as interactive JavaScript on all sites except those whitelisted by users.

This feature will also block FaceTime calls and other communication requests from numbers that the user has never called. Wired connections will not work while the device is locked, users cannot install configuration profiles, and cannot enroll the device in MDM. Over time, Apple will add other protections to Lockdown Mode.

- Advertisement -

The Cupertino-based company will offer an increased bounty for blocking mode exploits, up to a maximum of $2 million, to encourage security researchers to quickly notify it of any flaws in the system. In addition, Apple is launching a $10 million grant to support groups fighting targeted cyberattacks. Any damages that Apple receives as a result of a lawsuit against the NSO group will be contributed to the fund.

In November Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO and its parent company accused of developing spyware that used iOS exploits to target iPhones at the behest of government agencies. A month later NSO Pegasus spyware over on the iPhones of American diplomats in Uganda. Then in June, reports described a similar group, RCS Labs, which has also developed spyware that governments use to target certain Android and iOS devices. Apple says it designed the lockdown mode for a small portion of its user base that could be subject to such surveillance.