iPhone users may soon be able to lock down devices they fear could be vulnerable to attack, to prevent sensitive data from reaching the hands of cybercriminals.
Apple has long been a stickler for cyber security, developing products with the aim of being less susceptible to hacks than those of its competitors; even using its enhanced security credentials as a selling point in multi-million-pound advertising campaigns.
Its enviable reputation for security took a knock, however, when it emerged that iPhone devices owned by activists, politicians and journalists had been infected with spyware.
So, to combat this, Apple unveiled the newest tool in its arsenal – Lockdown Mode.
Any iPhone user worried that their device may have been compromised can engage Lockdown Mode to enact the following:
Message attachments are blocked and link previews are disabled
Incoming FaceTime calls or invitations are blocked unless the user has sent their own call or request
Wired connections to third-party devices are blocked when the device is locked
Once released, Lockdown Mode will be open to all iPhone users, though Apple itself has urged people to use caution and only activate it if they’re at risk of what it deemed “mercenary spyware attacks”.
Apple has also put a huge ‘bug bounty’ up for anyone who identifies flaws in its new system, with rewards of up to $2 million (£1.7m) for any white-hat hackers able to identify potential failures.
This latest development is thought to have come as a direct result of Apple devices falling foul of Pegasus spyware, said to have originated from Israel’s NSO Group, which may have impacted victims in some 150 different countries.
The spyware is capable of infecting both Android and iPhone devices – leaving messages, photos, emails and calls unsecured, as well as allowing remote users to covertly activate cameras and microphones.
When it was identified last year, Apple moved quickly to patch the issue, though some analysts said it had been in use by hackers for some years already.