Apple is known for being 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 ensure the safety of users and their data.

apple lockdown mode
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As part of its recent efforts to continue doing the same, the company is introducing a new security feature: Lockdown Mode.

Lockdown Mode is an optional feature that ramps up the security on Apple devices by adding an extra layer of protection to protect them from highly-targeted attacks like Pegasus.

Here’s all you need to know about Lockdown Mode, including what it does and how to enable it on your Apple devices.

What Is Lockdown Mode?

lockdown mode in iphone
IMAGE: Apple

Lockdown Mode is a high-level security feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your Apple devices to secure them from sophisticated cyberattacks, such as those from NSO Group and other state-sponsored mercenary spyware attacks. It’s free to use and will be available to iPhone, iPad, and Mac users in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura, respectively, later this fall.

Unlike regular security features, Lockdown Mode is totally optional: it’s intended specifically for people who find themselves at a higher risk of targeted attacks. These can be, for instance, high-profile individuals or the like of journalists, human rights defenders, government officials, or dissidents who have a greater risk of being attacked.

Average users, on the other hand, are less likely to reap the benefits from Lockdown Mode. One, because they are less prone to such targeted attacks, and two, since enabling Lockdown Mode deactivates many features, it significantly downgrades the functionality of their devices.

How Does Lockdown Mode Work?

Apple’s idea behind Lockdown Mode is to harden the defenses of its devices. The rationale behind this is quite simple: the more features a device has, the more attack vectors it provides to its potential attackers.

As such, with the Lockdown Mode, Apple aims to tackle this by reducing the attack surface on its iPhone, iPad, and Mac that could otherwise be leveraged as a potential vulnerability by attackers to target users’ devices and gain access. It does this by limiting many of the device functionalities, including blocking access to a few APIs, which can be used to access user data.

As a result, you’ll notice that many apps, websites, and features you access on your device (with Lockdown Mode enabled), give you limited functionality, while some are completely unavailable.

What Impact Does the Lockdown Mode Have on Your Device?

According to Apple, there are a series of system functionalities that change as soon as you enable Lockdown Mode on your device. Here’s a list of all changes you’ll notice in Lockdown Mode on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac:

1. Messages:

  • Link previews and similar features are disabled.
  • Attachment types other than images are blocked.

2. Web browsing:

  • Web technologies like JIT (just-in-time) compilation and a few more are disabled unless a user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode. All of these restrictions apply to Safari as well as other browsers using Webkit.

3. Apple services:

  • Service requests and incoming invitations, including those for FaceTime calls, are blocked if they aren’t initiated by the user or contacted in the past.

4. Others:

  • All wired connections with 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 can’t be enrolled into 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 strengthen the security of its devices.

Alexis Lours, a software engineer, conducted manual testing to dig deeper and find out what other functionalities the Lockdown Mode impacts. According to his report, the following features get disabled once you enable Lockdown Mode on your device:

  • WebAssembly
  • MP3 Playback
  • MathML
  • Gamepad API
  • Web Audio API
  • WebGL
  • JPEG 2000
  • Speech Recognition API
  • PDF Viewer
  • SVG Fonts

If you’d like to read more about what these features are 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 turned off by default in iOS 16, iPad 16, and macOS Ventura. However, if you decide on using it, here’s how to enable it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac:

I. Enable Lockdown Mode on iPhone and iPad

  1. Open Settings and go to Privacy & Security.
  2. Click on Lockdown Mode under Security and tap Turn on Lockdown Mode. When prompted to confirm the action, click on Turn On & Restart.

II. Enable Lockdown Mode on Mac

  1. Open System Settings and tap on Privacy & Security.
  2. Tap the Turn On button next to Lockdown Mode on the right, enter the admin password when prompted, and click on Turn On & Restart.

When your iPhone, iPad, or Mac restarts, you should have the Lockdown Mode active on it. And subsequently, the feature restrictions should be in place. To disable Lockdown Mode, go through the same steps and select the appropriate option.

Should You Enable Lockdown Mode?

Now that you’re aware of Lockdown Mode and the restrictions it imposes on your device, you might be wondering if you should use Lockdown Mode on your device.

Well, the short answer is NO.

As we mentioned earlier, Lockdown Mode is an extreme protection feature aimed strictly at people who are vulnerable to targeted spyware. It isn’t one of those standard security measures that come out with new software releases to protect you against scams, phishing attacks, and the like, but one that’s meant to protect you against sophisticated cyberattacks.

So unless you’re a journalist who’s breaking news on state classified secrets, a government employee working on an undisclosed project, or you feel closely monitored by any agency/state, you shouldn’t bother about the Lockdown Mode. Apple’s comprehensive security measures, available for everyone, are enough to protect you online and keep your personal data secure on the device.

Is Apple’s Lockdown Mode Same As Android Lockdown

No, the two aren’t similar by any stretch of the imagination.

Apple’s Lockdown Mode is an extreme protection feature created to protect devices from sophisticated state-sponsored spyware attacks. It works by reducing the attack surface on your device by restricting some of its features to prevent potential attackers from targeting them and gaining access to your device.

On the other hand, the Lockdown Mode in Android is a much simpler security feature. It disables most of the device’s unlocking methods, except PINs, passwords, and patterns, to make it nearly impossible for anyone to access your device, all while keeping other device functionalities intact.

Unlike Apple’s Lockdown Mode, which is useful for just a small subset of Apple device users, Android’s Lockdown Mode can be used even by average Android users to prevent unauthorized access to their devices.

Securing Your Devices Against Sophisticated Cyberattacks

Apple’s introduction of Lockdown Mode is a welcome move towards securing iPhones, iPads, and Macs of people who—because of who they are or the organizations they work for—are at the risk of being targeted by the state or an agency through digital attacks.

It promises to offer an extreme level of protection to users by minimizing the attack vectors on their devices. That way, attacks such as the Pegasus, which used a GIF to exploit iMessage or the ones that targeted MDM solutions or other vulnerabilities on users’ devices in the past, can be prevented.

Furthermore, as part of this effort, Apple is also doubling the bounty for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode to $2 million, which will help it find vulnerabilities in its operating systems and introduce measures to fix them quickly.

FAQs on Apple’s Lockdown Mode

To put your iPhone in Lockdown Mode:

  1. Open Settings and click on Privacy & Security.
  2. Click on Lockdown Mode under Security and tap Turn on Lockdown Mode. When prompted to confirm the action, click on Turn On & Restart.

Turning off Lockdown Mode is easy. Here's how to do it on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac:

I. On iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open Settings and click on Privacy & Security.
  2. Click on Lockdown Mode under Security and tap Turn Off Lockdown Mode and then hit Turn Off & Restart.

II. On Mac:

1. Open System Settings and tap on Privacy & Security.
2. Tap the Turn Off button next to Lockdown Mode on the right and click on Turn Off & Restart.

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