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Apple to roll out iPhone lockdown mode to fight hacking

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Yahoo Finance's Daniel Howley joins the Live show to break down Apple's latest efforts to protect its users against hacking.

Video transcript

JARED BLIKRE: Welcome back. Apple is launching a new lockdown mode for iPhones, Macs, and iPads that will provide extreme protection against hackers. Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley joins us for the latest. And Dan, I've got to tell you, I'm thinking about getting an iPhone and becoming a major celebrity just so I can get this feature. Break it down for us.

DAN HOWLEY: That's right, Jared. This new feature is called lockdown mode, as you said. It will be available later this year with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and Mac OS Venture. That means we'll see them probably around the September time frame, or this feature around this time frame when those pieces of software drop. But really, this is a very specific type of feature that Apple is releasing that will combat things like the NSO Group's Pegasus software.

Now you'll recall that the Pegasus software was a type of spyware that was able to circumvent essentially all of Apple's protections for the iPhone, giving users the ability to get access to a target's messages, camera phone, phone's camera, rather, phone's microphone, stored images, everything that you can imagine inside of an iPhone, without even having the user needing to click on a malicious link in messages or in the Mail app.

Essentially, it was a zero-click application. It would fire at the iPhone or be fired at the iPhone. And then the target would just have their iPhone turn into one rectangular piece of spying equipment. And so Apple has been all over NSO Group to try to stop them, filed lawsuits in the US against the company. And this is their latest step against it.

So just to give you some ideas of what it will do, most messaging attachments, when enabled-- when lockdown mode is enabled, excuse me, most messaging attachment types will be blocked, including link previews. That's important because that's how some of those types of attacks are being perpetrated. Also, certain web browsing features will be turned off unless you whitelist a feature. Different Apple services, such as FaceTime, will be blocked unless you've previously called a user on your own.

You won't be able to connect wired connections to the iPhone, unless your phone is unlocked. It cannot be locked to do that. And then you won't be able to install anything or enroll in mobile device management if you work at a company and use the iPhone. That's something that you use. So really, a lot of really technical things here. But it's specifically for a certain set of users.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, so let's talk about that, Dan. I mean, we're talking about somebody like a dissident, human rights workers, those who could be specific targets. This is going to make everyday use of Apple products more difficult. Why is Apple taking this step?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I mean, look, the NSO Group, this software, I mean, to say that it's incredibly damaging to Apple is an understatement Apple has marketed itself as a security and privacy expert, right? They advertise the iPhone as, essentially, a lockbox for all of your information. And NSO Group went ahead and said, no, not really. We can break into it if we want. They're one of the only companies out there-- there may be one other-- that's able to do this.

This is a major capability that Apple is launching. Obviously, it cuts down on the abilities for users to use their iPhone. But if you want that kind of security, chances are you're not going to care that you can't preview a message. You're more concerned about someone getting at your data, whether that's a major government or something along those lines.

So this is something that I think Apple has taken a lot of measure in releasing. They've weighed the pros and cons. And this is the way to do it. And, you know, I got to say, though they are releasing this, it doesn't mean that anyone is safe. The bad guys are always ahead of the good guys in situations like this.

JARED BLIKRE: I got to tell you, I don't think anyone using NSO or Phoenix, whatever, cares too much about-- I mean, I still love the features. I'd like to try it out. Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley, thanks for stopping by here.

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