Apple has released the highly-anticipated iOS 17 update, bringing a host of new and improved security features to iPhone users. While these enhancements benefit a broad range of users, they are particularly tailored to protect individuals at heightened risk of cyberattacks, such as journalists, activists, and human rights defenders. This article explores the key security updates and features of iOS 17.
Lockdown Mode: Expanding Protection
One of the standout features of iOS 17 is the expanded Lockdown Mode, which now extends its protective umbrella to Apple Watch users. This update is a timely addition, as recent exploits have demonstrated vulnerabilities even in Apple Watch devices.
Lockdown Mode is designed to thwart spyware by selectively disabling certain iPhone and Apple Watch functionalities that have been exploited by malicious actors. This includes iMessage and HomeKit. Additionally, the mode automatically scrubs geolocation data from shared photos, bolstering user privacy.
Guarding Against Network Vulnerabilities:
Lockdown Mode in iOS 17 is further fortified by preventing automatic connections to non-secure Wi-Fi networks. This measure safeguards against potential network attacks that could compromise an iPhone’s data integrity.
Notably, iOS 17 also thwarts attempts to connect to 2G cellular networks, a crucial defense against cell site simulators or “stingrays” used by law enforcement agencies. These devices can deceive nearby phones into connecting to fraudulent cell base stations, compromising user location data and communications.
Anti-Web Tracking in Safari:
iOS 17’s Safari browser introduces robust anti-web tracking capabilities. It obfuscates tracking information from web addresses, making it difficult for websites and advertisers to uniquely identify and monitor users across the internet.
Users can customize this feature in Safari settings, applying it to private browsing or all browsing sessions without disrupting their usual online experience.
Revolutionizing Password Security (iOS 17):
Apple’s iOS 17 bolsters password security with the evolution of passkeys, a phishing-resistant alternative to traditional passwords. Now, users can securely share passkeys and passwords with friends and family. This sharing process is fortified by end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the intended recipients can access these credentials.
The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for conventional passwords entirely, reducing the risk of theft or compromise.
Safety Check-Ins and Scam Protection:
A new feature called “Check-In” empowers iPhone users to share their real-time location and ETA with friends when traveling. This data is secured with end-to-end encryption, eliminating concerns about third-party apps selling location information to advertisers.
Additionally, iOS 17 introduces “Live Transcription,” a boon for individuals seeking to avoid spam or scam calls. Instead of answering calls, users can opt for live transcription, converting the caller’s voice into real-time text displayed on the screen, ensuring they remain undisturbed by nuisance calls.
With the release of iOS 17, Apple has taken significant strides in enhancing the security and privacy of iPhone users, particularly those facing elevated risks. Lockdown Mode expansion, anti-web tracking in Safari, passkey sharing, and innovative safety features like Check-In and Live Transcription collectively fortify the iOS ecosystem. These updates underscore Apple’s commitment to safeguarding user data and privacy in an increasingly connected world.