Apple Inc announced on Wednesday that it will introduce a new feature called “Lockdown Mode” this fall, with the goal of adding a new layer of safety for human rights campaigners, political dissidents, and other targets of sophisticated hacker assaults.
At least two Israeli firms have exploited weaknesses in Apple’s software to remotely break into iPhones without the target having to click or press anything. NSO Group, the developer of the “Pegasus” software used in similar attacks, has been sued by Apple and placed on a trade blacklist by US authorities.
“Lockdown Mode” will be available this autumn for Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and turning it on will prevent most attachments from being sent to the iPhone’s Messages app. Security researchers suspect NSO Group took advantage of a weakness in Apple’s handling of message attachments. When iPhones are locked, the new mode will also prevent wired connections. Cellebrite, an Israeli company, has exploited similar manual connections to gain access to iPhones.
According to Apple executives, the sophisticated attacks that the new feature is designed to combat – known as “zero click” hacking tactics – are still relatively rare and that most users will not need to use the new mode.
Spyware businesses have claimed that they sell cutting-edge technology to assist governments in combating national security risks. Human rights organisations and journalists, on the other hand, have consistently documented the use of spyware to target civil society, undermine political opposition, and interfere in elections.
To assist with hardening the new feature, Apple said that it will pay up to $2 million for any weakness discovered by security experts in the new mode, which Apple executives claimed was the highest such “bug bounty” provided in the industry.
Apple also announced a $10 million donation, plus any potential earnings from its lawsuit against NSO Group, to organisations that detect, expose, and strive to prevent targeted hacking.
According to Apple, the contribution will go to the Ford Foundation’s Dignity and Justice Fund, which is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.
(Adapted from FinancialExpress.com)