Apple has dealt a heavy blow to hiring “Surveillance as a Service” industry by introducing a new, highly secure blocking mode to protect people most at risk of targeted attacks. The company is also offering millions of dollars to support research to uncover such threats.

Starting with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura, and available now in the latest beta versions only for developers, Lock Mode increases security protection and sometimes limits functionality abused by state-sponsored surveillance hackers. Apple describes this protection as “drastically reducing the attack surface that can potentially be used by targeted spyware.”

In recent years, a series of targeted espionage attacks on journalists, activists and others has been exposed. Names such as Pegasus, DevilsTongue, Predator, Hermit and NSO Group have undermined trust in digital devices and exposed the risk of semi-private organizations and the threat they pose to civil society. Apple has made no secret of its opposition to such practices. filing a lawsuit against the NSO group in November and vowed to oppose the practice whenever possible.

“Apple’s recently released Lockdown Mode will reduce the attack surface, increase costs for spyware firms, and thus make it much more difficult for repressive governments to hack high-risk users,” said John Scott-Railton, senior researcher Civil laboratory at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

“Congratulations [Apple] for ensuring the protection of human rights defenders, heads of state, lawyers, activists, journalists, etc.” tweeted EFF, the privacy advocacy group.

What does lock mode do?

Currently, according to Apple, Locked Mode provides the following protections:

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