Apple takes seriously the threat of targeted malware hitting its devices and extracting personal data from journalists, human rights activists, opposition politicians and others in the crosshairs of repressive governments, criminal rings and even spies-for-hire. In addition to suing companies in 2021 that Apple maintains produce “sophisticated, government-sponsored surveillance technology that enables its highly targeted spyware to monitor its victims,” and assurance organizations that discourage cyber surveillance, Apple added a new high-security option to iOS 16 called Lockdown Mode. You’ll also find Lockdown Mode in iPadOS 16.1 when it ships (expected in October 2022) and macOS 13 Ventura (due later this year).
The vast majority of people do not need to use Lockdown Mode, as it is designed to protect against tailored and targeted attacks that rely on delivery of payloads via messages and other means that exploit previously undisclosed flaws (so-called “zero-day” error ). These attacks can gain access without consent to stored data, the microphone and camera, and decrypted data in apps, such as iMessages, while you are writing messages or after receiving them.
Lock Mode will slow down your devices and make them unable to perform certain actions. Mostly, it prevents potentially risky incoming data or functions from running on your hardware, such as receiving non-image/video files in Messages, installing system profiles, or executing complicated web page scripts. It also blocks “invitations to Apple services” from people you haven’t contacted: incoming FaceTime calls, an invitation to be part of a HomeKit “home,” and others.
How to turn on lock mode
Unlike all other security methods in iOS, iPadOS and macOS, Lockdown Mode is not intended as a step up in protection for ordinary users. However, if you believe you are in a position where you are either susceptible to attack or experiencing one, or asked to protect yourself by an expert, you can activate Lockdown Mode for your safety for the duration of the threat:
In iOS and iPadOSgo to Settings > Privacy and security > Lockdown Mode. Read the short explanation, press Turn on Lockdown Mode, browse the more specific list of exceptions and press Turn on lock mode. Confirm once more: press Turn on and reboot and enter your device passcode. Your iPhone or iPad will restart immediately.
In the upcoming macOS Venturago to System Preferences > Privacy and securityread the description, click Turn On next to the Lock Mode label, enter your administrator password and click Turn on and reboot. Your Mac goes straight into restart mode.
When your device boots up and you enter your password or login password, you may notice that it takes a little longer to get ready—on the order of tens of seconds, not minutes. In my testing, I found performance to be generally fine, but you will see some odd behavior at times that is not normal in either operating system.
For most purposes, you won’t notice anything different unless you’re trying to perform an action blocked by the mode, such as installing a profile or opening an unapproved attachment in Messages. In Safari, it’s a bit more obvious: every site has Lockdown enabled to the right or below the location bar.
However, you can add exceptions if you need to use certain websites with their full capabilities:
In iOS or iPadOStap the Reader View (AA) icon, tap Lock modeand confirm by pressing Power off. Use this method to re-enable lock mode on the website or go to Settings > Privacy and security > Lock mode > Configure web browsing to modify one or more exceptions you have made.
In VenturaCtrl-click/right-click in an empty area on the location bar, select Settings to page nameand uncheck Enable lock mode, and then confirm this selection. You can remove the exception in the same way or go to Safari > Settings > Homepages > Lock mode to investigate all exceptions in lock mode.
When you think the danger is over, you can disable lock mode and reboot again:
In iOS or iPadOSgo back to Settings > Privacy and security > Lock modepressure Turn off lock modepressure Shut down and restartenter your password and your iPhone or iPad will restart in normal mode.
In Venturareturn to System settings > Privacy and securityclick Power off next to Lock modeauthenticate with Touch ID or enter your administrative password, confirm by clicking Shut down and restartand your Mac will restart in its normal mode.
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