Apple's Lockdown Mode: Why There's a New Level of Security for Your iPhone

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
7 min read

Apple is taking a new approach to security with Lockdown Mode.

James Martin/CNET

What's happening

Apple will be offering a new "Lockdown Mode" for its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers this fall. It's designed to fight advanced hacking and targeted spyware like the NSO Group's Pegasus.

Why it matters

The move is Apple acknowledging, in a way, that the threat is serious and growing. Pegasus was used by repressive governments to spy on human rights activists, lawyers, politicians and journalists.

What's next

Cybersecurity watchers believe Apple may push customers and competitors to take stronger security postures. Ultimately, the way we all use technology may have to change.

Three years ago, Apple put up an ad in Las Vegas, showing the backside of one of its devices, with the phrase "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone." It was a bold, if cheeky, claim. But Apple is increasingly living up to it.

The tech giant has been ramping up its commitments to privacy and security with a string of new features that cybersecurity experts say are amounting to more than a bullet-point feature to differentiate its products from Samsung gadgets and other devices powered by Google's Android OS. Instead, Apple's moves have sent ripples through the advertising world and upset government officials -- signs, tech watchers say, that Apple is following through on its promises.

That's why many cybersecurity experts took notice of Apple's Lockdown Mode when it was unveiled last Wednesday. The feature is designed to activate "extreme" protections for the company's iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Among them, Apple's Lockdown Mode blocks link previews in the messages app, turns off potentially hackable web browsing technologies, and halts any incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers. Apple's devices also won't accept accessory connections unless the device is unlocked. (Here's how to use Apple's Lockdown mode on an iPhone.)