How to Use Apple's Lockdown Mode to Guard Against an Industrial-Strength iPhone Hack Apple's latest iOS 16 security tool can defend against a state-sponsored cyberattack on your iPhone.

For most of us, following basic privacy and security tips should be enough to keep ourselves — and our data — safe online. But if you think you’re being targeted with a state-sponsored cyberattack using an industrial-strength spyware tool like Pegasus, the regular rules for staying safe may not be enough.

If you’re a journalist, politician or activist who worries your phone is being targeted by a state-sponsored cyberattack, Apple has released a security feature that everyone can use to protect their iPhone from these sorts of attacks.

Read morePegasus Spyware and Citizen Surveillance: What You Need to Know

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Called Lockdown Mode, the new security tool from Apple is built into iOS 16 and is designed to fight attacks from malware and spyware like Pegasus. This isn’t the first step that Apple has taken against Pegasus and its maker, the NSO Group. In September 2020, Apple released a software update that addressed Pegasus, allowing any potential victims to receive threat notifications in case they were compromised.

If you want to learn how to enable Lockdown Mode on your iPhone, here’s what you need to know.

And if you’re interested in getting iOS 16 right now, here’s how to download the iOS 16 developer beta.

What does Lockdown Mode do?

Lockdown Mode offers an “extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats,” according to Apple. Those who are targeted by the Pegasus software are those “very few users.”

Essentially, Lockdown Mode increases security features on iOS by limiting certain functions that may be vulnerable to attack:

  • Most message attachments, other than images, are blocked and features like link previews are disabled.
  • Web technologies, like just-in-time JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless you exclude it from Lockdown Mode.
  • Incoming invitations and service requests, like FaceTime calls, are blocked if you’ve never called the person before.
  • All Shared Albums in Photos are removed, and any new invitations for Shared Albums are blocked.
  • Any wired connections between your iPhone and computer or accessory are blocked.
  • Configuration profiles, like the ones for Apple’s public betas, cannot be installed.
  • Your device cannot enroll in mobile device management.

Which devices support Lockdown Mode?

Currently, you can use Lockdown Mode on any Apple device running iOS 16, iPadOS 16 or MacOS Ventura. As of now, iOS 16 is only available as a developer beta, but it is expected to soon be accessible as a public beta.

Read moreWill My iPhone Run iOS 16? What You Need to Know

How to enable Lockdown Mode on iOS 16

As long as you’re running iOS 16, which you can currently download now as a public beta to eligible phones, you can easily turn on Lockdown Mode in a matter of seconds. All you need to do is go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode, read through the description, tap Turn on Lockdown Mode and then hit Turn On & Restart.

Your iPhone will instantly reboot, after which Lockdown Mode will be enabled. If you go into Safari, you should see a Lockdown Enabled or Lockdown Ready banner at the top of the page, indicating that Lockdown Mode is in fact turned on and securing your iPhone.

Configure Lockdown Mode settings

While Lockdown Mode provides broad security, you have a way to tweak it to better fit your needs.

As mentioned above, websites in Safari are severely limited when in Lockdown Mode, but you can bypass these limitations by excluding a certain website. To do this, launch Safari, go to the website you want to exclude, hit AA > Website Settings, toggle off Lockdown Mode and tap Turn Off. The banner at the top of the website should now read Lockdown Off.

To view all of your excluded websites, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode and tap on Configure Web Browsing at the bottom of the page. 

How to disable Lockdown Mode

Need to turn Lockdown Mode off?

Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode, tap Turn Off Lockdown Mode and then hit Turn Off & Restart. When your iPhone boots back up, Lockdown Mode will be disabled and you’ll be able to use your iPhone as usual once again.

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