Apple has maintained for a long time that its products provide a level of security and privacy that is sufficient for all customers by default, without the need for additional premium tiers or services.
However, as the number of online dangers faced by its customers grows, the corporation has been forced to adjust its approach. The newest version of iOS, version 16, has been released today, and it includes a pair of new safety features designed to assist users in specific situations of danger.
Both Safety Check and Lockdown Mode, two quite different features, are included in Apple’s most recent mobile operating system update as failsafe against a variety of potential digital disasters.
Safety Check was created by Apple for people who are at risk for or experiencing domestic violence. To make it simpler for users to manage and cancel access to their location data and reset privacy-related permissions, the tool consolidates a number of options in a single location.
However, Lockdown Mode is designed for users who may be subject to aggressive state-backed hacking or targeted spyware attacks. This function severely limits access to any unused iOS capabilities in order to shut off as many entry points as possible.
iOS’s broad security defenses have not been able to keep pace with these specific threats as more governments and oppressive entities around the world have begun purchasing sophisticated commodity malware to target persons of particular importance or interest.
Antivirus software developer Malwarebytes’ director of Mac and mobile platforms Thomas Reed agrees that features like Lockdown Mode and Safety Check are beneficial. Some may see this as an empty gesture intended to quiet those who have criticized Apple for not opening iOS enough.
I must respectfully disagree. I think these additional tools will undoubtedly help within the framework of Apple’s current security architecture for the nation-state-type stuff and concerns consumers may be facing from persons near them.
Reed, like many other mobile security experts, is concerned that Apple’s philosophical approach to protecting iOS comes with significant costs. Since the mobile OS is so restricted, it cannot be monitored for malicious behavior in the same way that desktop OSes can.
The advantage is that attackers are isolated in the same way that defenders are, but when hackers discover and exploit a weakness, they can do it undetected. In light of this premise, the development of dedicated security features like Safety Check and Lockdown Mode is not just a natural next step but an absolute necessity.
The more secure Apple makes iOS for its users, the more difficult it is for security researchers to find flaws, according to Amanda Gorton, CEO of mobile virtualization firm Corellium.
I applaud Apple’s efforts to prevent security flaws that, at most, may affect a negligible number of its customers because doing so is the responsible thing to do.
For iOS users who are experiencing domestic violence or harassment, Safety Check provides a few solutions for regaining control of their digital lives. For those who worry about who has access to their whereabouts and other data, Safety Check provides a feature called Manage Sharing & Access.
Find out who is connected to your device via Find My Friends and which apps have access to your microphone with this handy tool. There are tutorials included for checking the various safety options.
Meanwhile, the Emergency Reset function serves as a panic button in the event that you believe an unauthorized third party has gained access to your device and altered its settings to make you more vulnerable to tracking and surveillance.
By using Emergency Reset, you can instantly disable all of your account’s access, including the ability to send and receive iMessages and other notifications from other devices, as well as reset all of your privacy settings.
Apple claims that “Safety Check can be useful to users whose personal safety is at risk due to domestic or intimate partner violence by instantly revoking all access they’ve authorized others.”
Choose Privacy & Security -> Safety Check from the Settings menu to use the features.
When an iPhone is set to Lockdown Mode, it effectively enters an alternative reality wherein features such as link previews in Messages, shared albums in Photos, and FaceTime calls from unknown numbers and accounts are disabled.
The trade-off is to make it significantly harder for commercial spyware suppliers to find and use complicated exploit chains that make use of vulnerabilities in numerous iOS features to take control of devices.
Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstic, said at the time the feature was announced in July that while the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, the company would nonetheless “work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are.” This includes ongoing efforts to develop defences with these users in mind.
In iOS 16, Lockdown Mode may be activated from the Settings app by selecting Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode.