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Last year, Apple introduced an ultra-high security Lockdown Mode in iOS 16 to offer maximum protection to iPhone users who might be targeted by extremely aggressive malware and spyware attacks. Now it’s taking that up a notch in iOS 17 to offer even more advanced protection.
To be clear, iOS is already one of the most secure mobile operating systems on the planet — at least among those that ordinary folks are allowed to use. However, the security available in consumer-grade operating systems will never be a match against organizations like government agencies with seemingly unlimited resources.
After all, any security Apple adds to the iPhone has to be a balance between protecting the user and actually letting them use the device in a fun and practical way. An iPhone that can’t connect to the internet would be very secure, but what would be the point of owning one?
As a result, Apple has found itself embroiled in a cat-and-mouse battle with those “grey-hat” hackers that develop the kind of industrial-grade spyware tools that shadowy government agencies need to combat organized crime and terrorism. Sadly, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, tools like Pegasus and Predator aren’t used just by the “good guys” — they’re also purchased by foreign governments, some of which have much more questionable ethics.
For years, Apple would catch these vulnerabilities and release security patches, but as soon as it would plug one hole, new ones were discovered and exploited by spyware developers, who always seemed to be one step ahead of the “white-hat” security researchers at places like the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and Google’s Project Zero.
Last year, Apple decided it was time to take a more proactive approach to the problem. On one front, it launched a massive lawsuit against Pegasus developer NSO Group, and on the other, it built some serious protections into iOS 16 with its new no-holds-barred Lockdown Mode that prioritized security on the iPhone and other Apple devices at the expense of much of their usability.
As Apple notes, Lockdown Mode is an…