Apple's new security configuration seeks to protect activists and journalists

Apple’s new security configuration seeks to protect activists and journalists


Lockdown Mode will block various types of message attachments, disable link previews, and disable certain web browsing technologies by default. Also, it will block FaceTime invites and calls from unknown sources, block wired connections to computers or accessories while the device is locked. It will also disable the ability to add new configuration profiles or enroll in mobile device management (MDM).

Previously, Google’s Project Zero detailed that iPhones victimized by Pegasus software were compromised in a “zero-click” scenario by using a GIF for iMessage in the background. Other attackers have used malicious websites to take advantage of rendering flaws, and block mode prevents them from doing so in the first place.

The new modality was called by Apple as an “extreme and optional” level, as it is a response to the increase in the use of state-sponsored malicious software, such as Pegasus. According to Amnesty International, the software made by NSO Group put the safety of at least 25 Mexican journalists at risk for two years.

In a statement from Apple, it was highlighted that the global trade in spyware targets human rights defenders, journalists and dissidents. Lori McGlinchey, director of the Ford Foundation’s Technology and Society program, commented that spyware facilitates violence, reinforces authoritarianism and supports political repression.

According to Apple, a $10 million grant, plus damages awarded from the lawsuit filed against NSO Group, will be awarded to support organizations fighting cybercrime. Said retribution will be granted to the Dignity and Justice Fund established by the Ford Foundation and would also help journalists and activists.

According to Apple’s head of engineering and security architecture, Ivan Krsti?, the introduction of this new configuration seeks to protect journalists or activists who may be victims of targeted attacks. Therefore, the company will continue to work to protect the security of these users and will support researchers and associations that expose “mercenary” companies.

During WWDC 2022, in early June, Apple explained that its new Rapid Security Response feature will enable quick security patches without the need to restart the Mac. For its part, iOS16 and macOs Ventura will have a configuration to include support for a new access key technology and thus eliminate the use of passwords. These initiatives will try, in the short term, to solve the security problem carried out against politicians, activists and journalists.