Rear in 2011, Apple ran an ad in Las Vegas displaying the back of an iPhone, with the tagline “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” Despite the snarky tone, it was an audacious claim. Apple, on the other hand, is steadily delivering.
As a way to set itself apart from Samsung and other Android-powered devices, Google has been stepping up its privacy and security efforts with a slew of new capabilities that cybersecurity experts say go far beyond bullet-point features. When it comes to advertising and government officials, Apple’s initiatives have sparked a backlash, which tech observers say is evidence that Apple is following through on its promises.
Because of this, when Apple’s Lockdown Mode was revealed on Wednesday, many cybersecurity professionals took notice. Using this function, Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and Mac PCs will have “extreme” security measures activated. Apple’s Lockdown Mode restricts link previews in the messaging app, disables potentially hackable web browsing capabilities, and stops any incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers. Connecting accessories to an unlocked Apple device is another requirement. (Apple’s Lockdown mode can be used on an iPhone.)
Apple noted that of the nearly 2 billion active devices in the globe, only a small percentage of users would need to activate the feature. Because of the increasing frequency of attacks by governments around the world, cybersecurity experts believe that these extreme methods may become more commonplace.
China’s “immense” threat to “our economic and national security” and its hacking program is bigger than that of every other major country combined has been a rare joint warning from the FBI and Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency in the last week. While the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported in 2017 that Russia had targeted government and political parties as well as think tanks and lobbying groups, other government agencies have issued similar warnings about hacking from other adversaries.
Targeted assaults, in contrast to widely disseminated ransomware or virus campaigns, are frequently meant for silent intelligence collection, which could lead to stolen technology, revealed state secrets, and more.
Over the past eight months, Apple says it has tracked targeted hacking activities aimed at people in roughly 150 countries. Apple already has a system in place to notify users when they may be a target. According to specialists in cybersecurity, Apple’s upcoming release of Lockdown Mode will signal an increase in the company’s security measures.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) deputy executive director and general counsel Kurt Opsahl, who advocates for civil liberties in the digital world, said “there have been numerous attempts over the years to make highly secure devices and it is great to have those things and to have them put out there, but we haven’t seen widespread adoption.” Opsahl feels that an up-to-date phone is sufficient for the majority of people, but he believes that any measure taken by Apple that increases the expense of hacking a phone is beneficial to the security of those devices.
Prof. Ron Deibert of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and director of the university’s political science department said, “Make no mistake, Lockdown Mode will be a huge blow.”
When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs spoke about privacy at the D8 conference in 2010, the company’s attitude to cybersecurity can be traced back.
In Jobs’ words, “Privacy implies that people understand what they’re signing up for, in clear English, and repeatedly.” “Consult with them about it. Assume they’ll remember. If they’ve had enough of you asking, get them to tell you so you can quit. Clearly explain your plans to them.”
Unlike other digital companies like Facebook, whose co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was in the crowd, this presentation was a departure. Google, Facebook, and Amazon generate most of their money from targeted advertising, which is often at odds with the privacy interests of its customers. Hyper-targeted ads are more likely to be relevant to their intended audience and have a greater impact.
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Apple, on the other hand, generates only a small portion of its revenue from advertising. Instead, over 70% of Apple company revenues last year came from the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers, totaling over $259 billion.
As a result, Apple provides all of its users with built-in security safeguards. Popups requesting if the program can access your microphone or camera appear as soon as you open Facebook for the first time on your mobile device.
App Following Transparency is a feature introduced by Apple last year that allows users to opt-out of firms tracking them across websites and applications. Facebook’s owner Meta claims that the decision to stop tracking its users has cost the company up to $10 billion in missed revenue this year, according to research. As Meta CFO David Wehner put it back in February, “We’ve got to work our way through a significant headwind.
Offering a new model for iPhones, on the other hand, is a completely new strategy. Apple’s “extreme” security measures necessitate a restart after activating Lockdown Mode via the settings app’s toggle button.
Security and privacy expert Jeff Pollard, of Forrester, said that Apple is making security and privacy settings as simple and uncomplicated as possible. In Pollard’s view, this strategy gives Apple a chance to test the waters between usability and security, while still delivering on its commitment to improving Lockdown Mode over time. Our competitors will have to work harder if we make it simpler for them.
Lockdown Mode may be one of Apple’s most significant security steps to date, but the company still has a lot of work to do. It was shown in court last year that Apple’s Mac computers suffer a “much higher malware problem” than the company’s iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets.
The quantity of infection on the Mac today is unacceptable to us,” Federighi stated during evidence defending Apple in a case against Epic Games. A few pieces of malware are identified each week, either by Apple or with help from third parties, and the company utilizes built-in technologies to automatically remove them from consumers’ machines, he said at the time. However, there are still a lot of bad programs out there. Mac malware attacked 300,000 systems in Apple’s fiscal year that ended last May, according to Federighi.
Security weaknesses can be exploited even if Lockdown Mode does not directly address widespread malware threats.
According to Betsy Sigman, an emeritus Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University, “Something needs to be done,” she added.
To Sigman, the fact that malware makers can generate millions of dollars from targeted hacks like Pegasus is a serious situation. To combat them, however, the groups that have formed are far smaller and require financing to both battles the menace and educate potential victims.
There will be a lot of money involved, Sigman said. At least $10 million has been pledged to the Ford Foundation’s Dignity and Justice Fund to defend human rights and resist social repression. According to Sigman, a lot more money will have to be put in. “I’m hoping Apple and other tech giants will get together to solve this problem.”
Lockdown Mode, meantime, is eagerly anticipated by several cybersecurity experts, including Susan Landau, when Apple launches it in the fall. Landau, a professor of cybersecurity and policy at Tufts University and a former employee of Google and Sun Microsystems, already exercises caution when it comes to the websites she accesses and the gadgets she uses. To keep her finances in order, she keeps a separate Google Chromebook and refuses to download most apps to her phone unless she is confident in the firm behind them.
“It’s a choice between convenience and security,” she remarked. Unlike most of us, Landau does not have the time or resources to thoroughly test every programme and website for security risks. In addition to the security procedures already in place, Landau noted that the influx of new programmes, features and upgrades that occur each year makes the app stores even more vulnerable. “Complexity is security’s worst nightmare.”
Lockdown Mode, according to her, might help us all better appreciate the balance between features and security, especially as state-sponsored hackers scale up their attacks. “People have become accustomed to the convenience without comprehending the problems,” Landau remarked. “The ease with which we’ve been accustomed to live must alter.”