iOS 16 Launches With Lockdown Mode, Spyware Protection, Safety Check

  • Apple officially released its iOS 16 operating system update for iPhone devices, which contains several privacy and security–focused features.

    First unveiled at the WWDC 2022 conference in June, iOS 16 supports iPhone devices starting from the iPhone 8, alongside the second and third generation of the iPhone SE.

    The first of the new features is ‘Lockdown Mode,’ which the company first launched in July for a selected few but is now available on all iOS 16 devices.

    According to Apple, Lockdown Mode provides an “extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats.”

    The mode hardens devices’ defenses and limits certain functionalities, thus reducing the attack surface that could potentially be exploited by spyware.

    More specifically, the feature can block most message attachment types, disable link previews and stop wired connections when the device is locked, among other things.

    In iOS 16, Apple has also introduced a ‘Safety Check’ option (also revealed by Apple earlier this year), designed to help people cut ties with abusive partners who may try to track their locations or secretly read their messages.

    Safety Check lets users stop sharing location information via Find My iPhone and quickly reset a device’s privacy settings. Activating the feature will also sign users out on all other devices and restrict access to both FaceTime and iMessage apps.

    Safety Check was reportedly developed by Apple in collaboration with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Australian Women’s Services Network.

    Additional security features in iOS 16 include preventing applications from accessing the device’s clipboard and Passkey, a feature that replaces passwords on Safari with biometrics–powered passkeys.

    The latter feature will be particularly welcomed among Apple users as it comes months after Apple discovered (and patched) a critical security risk in Safari that allowed threat actors to take control of a device’s operating system and execute arbitrary code.

    A full list of iOS 16 features is available on Apple’s website.