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A new feature offers additional protection to the few users at risk of highly targeted cyberattacks.

Apple announced two initiatives to help protect users who may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as private companies developing state-sponsored spyware.

Lockdown Mode is coming to iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura this fall. The capability provides optional protection for the very small number of users that face targeted threats to their digital security. Apple also shared details about the $10 million cybersecurity grant it announced last November to support civil society organizations that conduct mercenary spyware threat research and advocacy.

“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market”, said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture. “Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks.”

“While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are.”

A level of extreme, optional security

Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, optional level of security for users targeted by spyware from the likes of NSO Group. Turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura further hardens device defences and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.

Apple will continue to strengthen Lockdown Mode and add new protections over time, the company says. To invite feedback and collaboration from the security research community, Apple has also established a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. Bounties are doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000 — the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry.