Apple’s long-awaited iOS 17 update for iPhones arrives today with a number of new and improved security features. Much of the new features are aimed at protecting iPhone owners who are more exposed to cyberattacks and spyware, such as journalists, activists and human rights defenders. Other features in iOS 17 are better suited to a broader population, including anti-web tracking, secure password storage, and easy sharing of new phishing-resistant passwords.
Here’s what we’ve seen so far.
New protections in lock mode
The biggest addition to Lock Mode is that it now works on Apple Watch, not just iPhones, iPads, and Macs. This can’t come soon enough, given that recent exploits used to install spyware may have compromised Apple Watch owners.
Lock Mode works by selectively disabling certain iPhone (and Watch) features that have been abused by spyware makers in the past, such as iMessage and HomeKit, making it much more difficult to intrusion into a device and theft of its data.
Lock Mode in iOS 17 also automatically removes geolocation data from photos by default when sharing photos with others, such as where the photo was taken, which could reveal a person’s location.
Another nice feature means that iPhones in Lockdown mode will automatically block connection to unsecured Wi-Fi networks that could allow someone on the same network to analyze the iPhone’s network traffic. Lock mode also blocks connections to 2G cellular networks. This aims to block a series of cellular exploits that are often used by cell site simulators, or “stingrays,” that law enforcement uses to trick nearby phones into connecting to fake base stations. cell phones, track phone locations and spy on calls and messages. . Stingrays are controversial because they work over a large area and make no choice in the devices they trap.
More Anti-Web Tracking Features
The Safari browser in iOS 17 now removes web address tracking information that can be used to uniquely identify your device and track you across the web. This makes it harder for websites and advertisers to see what other sites you link to.
You can select this feature in your Safari settings on iOS 17 to work when you’re using private browsing, or you can apply it to all browsing sessions to really make a dent. This should not affect or interrupt your daily browsing experience.
Private browsing will also be locked by default, prompting the device owner to scan their face or fingerprint before their private tabs open.
Check-in security features and fraudster prevention
Access Keys, the phishing-resistant password replacement that lets you log in without worrying about your passwords being stolen, is getting an update. Tons of sites and services already support passwords: Apple, Google, Microsoft, PayPal and many others. Before long, you won’t have a password for good. You can now share passkeys (and passwords, if necessary) with friends and family. Access keys and passwords are shared using end-to-end encryption, so no one other than group members can access them, not even Apple.
Check In is a new feature that lets iPhone owners share with friends when they expect to arrive safely at their destination. The feature monitors the person’s location in real time and will alert the friend if something goes wrong. This location data is end-to-end encrypted, eliminating the need for third-party apps that sold your location data to advertisers and data brokers.
And finally: live transcription is an added bonus for people who never want to be bothered by spam or scam calls again. Instead of answering (or declining) the phone (both can inform the caller that the line is active), live transcription converts the caller’s voice into text displayed on the screen in real time.