October 1, 2023

July 6 (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said Wednesday it plans to launch a new feature called “Lockdown Mode” this fall aimed at adding a new layer of protection for human rights defenders, political opponents and other targets. Sophisticated hacking attacks.

The move comes after at least two Israeli companies have exploited Apple software flaws to remotely break into iPhones without having to click or tap anything. Apple has sued NSO Group, the maker of Pegasus software that can carry out such attacks, and put it on a commercial blacklist by US officials.

Lock Mode will arrive on Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac this fall, and turning it on will block most attachments sent to the iPhone Messages app. Security researchers believe the NSO Group exploited a flaw in how Apple handles message attachments. The new mode will also block wired connections to iPhones when they are locked. The Israeli company Cellebrite used such manual connections to access the iPhones.

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Apple representatives said they believe the sophisticated attacks the new feature is designed to combat — called “no-click” hacking techniques — are still relatively rare and that most users won’t need to activate the new mode.

Spyware companies have argued that they sell high-powered technology to help governments thwart national security threats. But human rights groups and journalists have repeatedly documented the use of spyware to attack civil society, undermine political opposition, and interfere with elections.

To help solidify the new feature, Apple said it will pay up to $2 million for each flaw that security researchers can find in the new mode, which Apple representatives said is the highest such reward offered in the industry.

Apple also said it is offering a $10 million grant, plus any potential proceeds from the lawsuit against the NSO Group, to groups that search for, detect and prevent targeted hacking. Apple said the grant will go to the Dignity and Justice Fund set up by the Ford Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

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Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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