What is Apple Lock Mode? How and when to use it?
Apple is known to be a strong advocate for user privacy and security. Over the years, the company has added several features to its operating systems to protect its devices from attacks and keep users and their data safe.
As part of its recent efforts to continue doing the same, the company is introducing a new security feature: Lock mode.
Lockdown Mode is an optional feature that strengthens the security of Apple devices by adding an extra layer of protection to protect against highly targeted attacks like Pegasus.
Here’s everything you need to know about Lock Mode, including what it does and how to enable it on your Apple devices.
What is lock mode?
Lockdown Mode is a high-level security feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your Apple devices to protect them from sophisticated cyberattacks, such as those from the NSO Group and other state-sponsored mercenary spyware attacks. . It’s free to use and will be available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users running iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura, respectively, later this fall.
Unlike the usual security features, the lock mode is totally optional: it is specifically intended for people at higher risk of targeted attacks. These may be, for example, high profile or similar individuals among journalists, human rights defenders, government officials or dissidents who are at greater risk of being attacked.
Average users, on the other hand, are less likely to experience the benefits of lockdown mode. First, because they are less prone to such targeted attacks, and second, since enabling lockdown mode disables many features, it significantly degrades the functionality of their devices.
How does lockdown mode work?
Apple’s idea behind lockdown mode is to strengthen the defenses of its devices. The reason behind this is quite simple: the more features a device has, the more attack vectors it provides to its potential attackers.
As such, with Lockdown Mode, Apple aims to address this issue by reducing the attack surface on its iPhone, iPad and Mac that could otherwise be exploited as a potential vulnerability by attackers to target user devices and to access. It does this by limiting many device features, including blocking access to a few APIs, which can be used to access user data.
Therefore, you will notice that many apps, websites, and features that you access on your device (with lock mode enabled) give you limited functionality, while some are completely unavailable.
What impact does lock mode have on your device?
According to Apple, there are a series of system features that change as soon as you enable lock mode on your device. Here’s a list of all the changes you’ll notice in lockdown mode on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac:
- Link previews and similar functionality are disabled.
- Attachment types other than images are blocked.
2. Web browsing:
- Web technologies such as JIT (just in time) compilation and a few others are disabled unless a user excludes a trusted site from lockdown mode. All these restrictions apply to Safari as well as other browsers using Webkit.
- Incoming service requests and invitations, including those for FaceTime calls, are blocked if not initiated by the user or contacted in the past.
- All wired connections to a computer or accessory are blocked when the device is locked.
- Installation of configuration profiles, such as those for installing modified software, is prohibited and the device cannot be enrolled in MDM (mobile device management).
- Shared albums are removed from the Photos app and new invitations for the same are blocked.
Apple says these protections will be available at launch, and over time it will add more protections to Lockdown Mode to make its devices more secure.
Alexis Lours, a software engineer, conducted manual tests to dig deeper and find out what other features were impacted by lockdown mode. According to his report, the following features are disabled once you enable lockdown mode on your device:
- MP3 playback
- Gamepad API
- Web-sound API
- Speech recognition API
- PDF Viewer
- SVG fonts
If you want to learn more about these features and how they impact the user experience, check out Alexis’ full report on lockdown mode.
How to Enable Lockdown Mode on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
Lockdown Mode is disabled by default in iOS 16, iPad 16, and macOS Ventura. However, if you decide to use it, here’s how to enable it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac:
I. Enable Lock Mode on iPhone and iPad
- Open Settings and go to Privacy and Security.
- Click on Lock mode below Security and press Enable lock mode. When prompted to confirm the action, click Turn on and restart.
II. Enable Lockdown Mode on Mac
- Open System Parameters and press Privacy and Security.
- Press the To light up button next to Lock mode on the right, enter the administrator password when prompted, then click Turn on and restart.
When your iPhone, iPad, or Mac restarts, Lockdown Mode should be enabled. And thereafter, feature restrictions must be in place. To disable lock mode, follow the same steps and select the appropriate option.
Should you enable lockdown mode?
Now that you know about lock mode and the restrictions it places on your device, you might be wondering if you should use lock mode on your device.
Well, the short answer is NO.
As we mentioned earlier, Lock Mode is an extreme protection feature intended strictly for those vulnerable to targeted spyware. It’s not one of those standard security measures that come out with new software releases to protect you against scams, phishing attacks, etc., but one that’s meant to protect you against sophisticated cyberattacks.
So unless you are a reporter reporting on state secrets, a government employee working on an undisclosed project, or feel under close surveillance by an agency/state, you should not worry about lock mode. Apple’s comprehensive security measures, available to everyone, are enough to protect you online and secure your personal data on the device.
Secure your devices against sophisticated cyberattacks
Apple’s introduction of lockdown mode is a welcome move towards securing the iPhones, iPads and Macs of people who, because of who they are or the organizations they work for, are at risk of being targeted by the state or a agency through digital attacks.
It promises to provide an extreme level of protection to users by minimizing attack vectors on their devices. This way, attacks such as Pegasus, which used a GIF to exploit iMessage or those that targeted MDM solutions or other vulnerabilities on user devices in the past, can be avoided.
Additionally, as part of this effort, Apple is also doubling the bounty for lockdown mode qualifying results to $2 million, which will help it find vulnerabilities in its operating systems and introduce measures to correct them quickly.
Apple Lock Mode FAQ
Lock Mode is an optional extreme protection feature on the Apple iPhone, iPad, and Mac that adds an extra level of security to these devices to protect against sophisticated spyware attacks sponsored by the State. It will be available for users starting iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura later this fall.
To put your iPhone in lock mode:
- Open Settings and click on Privacy and Security.
- Click on Lock Mode below Security and press Enable lock mode. When prompted to confirm the action, click Turn on and restart.
Disabling lock mode is easy. Here’s how to do it on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac:
I. On iPhone and iPad:
- Open Settings and click on Privacy and Security.
- Click on Lock Mode below Security and press Disable lock mode then hit Power off and restart.
II. On Mac:
1. Open System Parameters and press Privacy and Security.
2. Press the Switch off button next to Lock Mode on the right and click on Power off and restart.