October 3, 2022

What is happening

Apple will introduce a new “Lock Mode” for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It is designed to combat targeted hacking and spyware campaigns such as NSO Group’s Pegasus.

why does it matter

Although these attacks happen to a small group of people, the threat is growing. He found that repressive governments use Pegasus to spy on human rights activists, lawyers, politicians, and journalists.

What’s Next

Apple plans to release Lockdown Mode for free later this year and is publicly committed to continuing to improve it. The company has also expanded bug bounty and software awards to encourage more research toward this issue.

For years Apple has marketed its iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices as the most secure and privacy-focused devices on the market. On Wednesday, I reinforced that effort with A new feature coming this fall called Lockdown ModeDesigned to combat targeted hacking attempts such as Pegasus malwarei.e. repressive governments It has reportedly been used on human rights workers, lawyers, politicians, and journalists. It also announced a $10 million grant and a $2 million bug bounty to encourage further research into such threats.

The tech giant said that Lockdown Mode is designed to add additional protection to 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 will be provided to the test programs that are made Developers are using it this summer It was released free to the public in the fall.

“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 Krstic, chief of security engineering and engineering at Apple, 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.”

Apple designed Lockdown mode to be easy to operate through the Settings app on its devices.

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Along with a new Lockdown mode, which Apple calls an “extreme” measure, the company announced a $10 million grant to Dignity and Justice FundFounded 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.

People have to restart their devices before locking mode can turn on.

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Last September, Apple sent out a free software update Address Pegasusand then A lawsuit against the NSO . group 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 ProtectionDesigned for “anyone at increased risk of targeted online attacks” by adding additional layers of security to Logins and Downloads. Microsoft has been increasingly Empty passwords.

Apple said it plans to expand Lockdown Mode over time, and announced a file bug bonus Up 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 format Next test software updateApps 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 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 DebertProfessor of Political Science and Director Citizen Lab Cybersecurity researchers at the University of Toronto’s Monk 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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