Apple has finally released the highly anticipated iOS 17 update for iPhones, bringing a host of new and enhanced security features.
These updates are designed to safeguard iPhone users, especially those who are more vulnerable to cyberattacks and spyware, such as journalists, activists, and human rights defenders.
Additionally, iOS 17 introduces features aimed at enhancing the overall security and privacy of all iPhone users. Let’s delve into the details of these new additions:
The most significant enhancement to Lockdown Mode is its expansion to include Apple Watch compatibility, in addition to iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
This expansion is crucial, considering recent exploits that have targeted Apple Watch users. Lockdown Mode plays a pivotal role in bolstering security by selectively disabling specific iPhone (and Watch) functions that have been exploited by spyware developers in the past.
These include features like iMessage and HomeKit, which, when disabled, make it substantially more challenging for malicious actors to gain unauthorized access to a device and pilfer its data.
Furthermore, in iOS 17, Lockdown Mode takes a proactive approach by automatically removing geolocation data from shared photos.
This is a notable privacy enhancement as it prevents sensitive location information from being inadvertently exposed when sharing photos.
Another noteworthy feature of Lockdown Mode is its ability to block automatic connections to insecure Wi-Fi networks.
These networks can be exploited by individuals on the same network to analyze an iPhone’s network traffic. Additionally, Lockdown Mode restricts connections to 2G cellular networks.
This is a strategic move to thwart a variety of cellular-based exploits commonly employed by law enforcement using devices known as “stingrays.”
Stingrays trick nearby phones into connecting to fake cell base stations, enabling the tracking of phone locations and eavesdropping on calls and messages. The use of stingrays is contentious due to their wide-reaching and indiscriminate nature.
Stay safe online
iOS 17 introduces enhancements to the Safari browser, particularly in the realm of anti-web tracking measures.
The Safari browser now removes tracking information from web addresses that could be exploited to uniquely identify a user’s device and monitor their online activities.
This update makes it significantly more challenging for websites and advertisers to track users across the web.
Users have the option to configure this feature in their Safari settings on iOS 17, allowing it to operate during private browsing sessions or across all browsing activities. Importantly, implementing this feature should not disrupt the day-to-day browsing experience.
Additionally, private browsing sessions are now locked by default. Users are prompted to authenticate themselves through facial recognition or fingerprint scanning before their private tabs can be accessed.
This further reinforces the privacy and security of sensitive online activities.
Even more safety and security systems
Passkeys, the phishing-resistant alternative to traditional passwords, receive an update in iOS 17.
Passkeys allow users to log in without the fear of their passwords being compromised. Many prominent websites and services already support passkeys, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, and others.
The goal is to eventually eliminate the need for traditional passwords entirely. An exciting addition is the ability to share passkeys (and passwords if necessary) with friends and family.
These credentials are shared using end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only authorized individuals within the group can access them, with Apple having no access.
A novel feature known as “Check-In” is introduced in iOS 17. This feature enables iPhone owners to share their planned arrival times at their destinations with friends.
It continuously monitors the user’s real-time location and triggers alerts to friends if anything appears amiss.
Importantly, all location data shared through this feature is encrypted end-to-end, eliminating the need for third-party apps that may have previously sold user location data to advertisers and data brokers.
Lastly, iOS 17 introduces “Live Transcription,” a valuable tool for those who wish to avoid spam or scam calls.
Instead of answering or declining the call, both of which can tip off the caller that the line is active, live transcription converts the caller’s voice into real-time text displayed on the screen.
This feature empowers users to quickly assess the legitimacy of incoming calls without direct interaction.
iOS 17 represents a significant step forward in enhancing the security, privacy, and user experience of iPhone owners.
Lockdown Mode’s expansion to Apple Watch, anti-web tracking features in Safari, and the introduction of Check-In and Live Transcription are all commendable updates.
These improvements cater to the evolving needs of users, especially those who require heightened security measures, while simultaneously benefiting the wider iPhone user community.