Apple’s ‘Lockdown Mode’ protects you from spyware attacks



When we think about “lockdown mode” today, it immediately brings to mind the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

Apple’s new “Lockdown Mode” is kinda similar: In the event of a potential security threat (like the coronavirus infiltrating a country or a community), activating the Lockdown Mode on iPhone can stave off cyberattacks by limiting access and hence hardening the defences of your mobile device.

So are you at risk of such threats? What does Apple’s new Lockdown Mode offer? Also, is there a “lockdown mode” for Android or Samsung users? Keep reading to find out.

What is spyware and are you at risk?  

Spyware can also be referred to as malware — a malicious software. That’s because it secretly installs itself without your consent on your device. Its motive can range from unpleasant (and maybe relatively harmless), to full-on nefarious.

One example of spyware can act like a bug, tracking your web-browsing activities with the sole purpose of feeding you ads that you might be interested in or selling your preferences to advertisers. These are known as Adware or Tracking Cookies, and their activities might also slow down the performance of your device.

On a more heinous level, spyware can be used by criminals to steal your personal information such as credit card details, account passwords, financial data, a crypto wallet key and so on. Armed with this information, baddies can hijack your accounts, drain your bank accounts, stalk your online movements and even listen in on your most private conversations.

Just imagine, there could be “someone” looking over your shoulder at every text message, or spying through your phone camera even when your screen is switched off!

Just in April 2022, Catalan politicians’ phones were hit by a zero-click attack using Pegasus spyware. The spyware exploited an iOS vulnerability, which means the spyware can infect an iPhone without any click or action — all it takes is for someone to send it to your phone or device. Android devices weren’t spared as well.

On a compromised device, the Pegasus spyware acts like a surveillance tool. It can record text messages, passwords, calls, and even the location of the target’s device.

So how much at risk are you? Even if you’re not some bigwig or politician, your device(s) could be vulnerable to spyware. Thus, you should at least have some anti-spyware software or firewall installed to prevent your personal data from being stolen and/or misused.

What Apple’s new Lockdown Mode offers 

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Apple’s new Lockdown Mode — described as “an extreme, optional protection for those who think they could be targeted by a highly sophisticated cyberattack” — can bolster certain individuals’ defence.

So in fact, Apple’s Lockdown Mode is not really for the majority of us. This high-security mode is mainly for high-profile Apple users who might be targets of spyware planted by state-backed groups. The Pegasus spyware attack on Catalan politicians is one such example.

Just announced in July 2022, Apple’s new Lockdown Mode is planned for release this fall, alongside with the planned roll-out of iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura. The actual iOS 16 release date has yet to be announced, but given that iOS 15 launched on 20 September 2021, this will be some time in September 2022.

So what can Apple’s new Lockdown Mode do? At the time of writing, Lockdown Mode will limit these features in your Apple device:

  • Messages — Limited to text, image attachments; some features like link previews will be disabled
  • Web-browsing — Just-in-time JavaScript compilation disabled unless a trusted site is specified
  • Apple services — Invitations, service requests blocked (even FaceTime) if user did not previously send the initiator a request/call
  • Wired connections — Blocked with computer/accessory when device is locked
  • Others — Configuration profiles cannot be installed; cannot enroll device into mobile device management

According to Apple, its Lockdown Mode will continue to be strengthened with new protections over time. You also probably heard about “Apple Lockdown Mode $2 million”. Well, that’s because Apple is offering an attractive bounty to those who can break its Lockdown Mode in a bid to further enhance its security and fix any vulnerabilities beforehand.

Lockdown Mode for Android/Samsung?

There is a “lockdown mode” for Android, the operating system used by Samsung, but for Android, it is kinda different. Accessed by pressing and holding the power button, it just makes your phone more difficult to unlock. Only your PIN, pattern and password can be used.

Supe up your mobile security 

There are plenty of viruses, spywares and other threats out there waiting to harm your smart devices. But with the M1 Security Suite, you can count the latest cloud protection technology for you and your family’s devices. Protect all your Android devices against loss, data theft, virus and other cyber threats when you sign up with any M1 SIM-only plan starting from just $17.95 per month. Exclusive to mpowered readers, get $15 off your first month when you sign up today! Learn more.