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iOS 17: Introducing New Security and Privacy Features

Apple's iOS 17 update for iPhones is here, featuring enhanced security measures and new features like Lockdown Mode and Live Transcription.

Apple's highly anticipated iOS 17 update for iPhones has finally arrived, bringing with it a host of new and improved security features. These features are designed to protect iPhone users who are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks and spyware, such as journalists, activists, and human rights defenders. However, there are also features that benefit the general population, including anti-web tracking, secure password storage, and the easy sharing of phishing-resistant passkeys.

One of the most significant additions to iOS 17 is the expansion of Lockdown Mode to Apple Watch. Previously only available on iPhones, iPads, and Macs, Lockdown Mode now offers enhanced protection for Apple Watch owners. This is crucial, as recent exploits have demonstrated that spyware can compromise Apple Watch devices.

Lockdown Mode functions by selectively disabling certain features on iPhones and Watches that have been exploited by spyware developers in the past. For example, iMessage and HomeKit can be turned off, making it much more challenging for hackers to gain unauthorized access to a device and steal its data.

In iOS 17, Lockdown Mode also automatically removes geolocation data from shared photos by default. This prevents the disclosure of a user's location when sharing images with others.

Another notable feature is the automatic blocking of non-secure Wi-Fi networks when a device is in Lockdown Mode. This prevents potential network traffic analysis by individuals on the same network. Additionally, Lockdown Mode blocks connections to 2G cellular networks, which are commonly exploited by cell site simulators, also known as "stingrays." These devices are used by law enforcement to deceive nearby phones into connecting to fake cell base stations, enabling them to track locations and intercept calls and messages. The use of stingrays has sparked controversy due to their indiscriminate nature and wide-ranging impact on devices.

Safari, the default browser on iOS, has also received an upgrade in iOS 17. The browser now removes tracking information from web addresses, making it more difficult for websites and advertisers to identify and track users across the web. This feature can be enabled in Safari settings for private browsing or applied to all browsing sessions without affecting the user's overall browsing experience.

Moreover, private browsing now defaults to a locked state, requiring device owners to authenticate themselves using facial recognition or fingerprint scanning before accessing private tabs.

Passkeys, the password replacement system that offers increased protection against phishing attacks, have also been updated. Many popular sites and services, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and PayPal, already support passkeys. With the latest update, users can now share passkeys and passwords securely with friends and family. These credentials are encrypted end-to-end, ensuring that only authorized individuals within the group can access them, including Apple.

Check In is a new feature that allows iPhone users to share their safe arrival at a destination with friends. This feature continuously monitors the user's real-time location and sends an alert to their chosen friend if anything appears to be wrong. Importantly, the location data is encrypted end-to-end, eliminating the need for third-party apps that may have previously sold users' location data to advertisers and data brokers.

Finally, iOS 17 introduces Live Transcription, a feature that benefits users who wish to avoid spam or scam calls. Instead of answering or declining the call, users can activate live transcription, which converts the caller's voice into real-time text displayed on the screen. This allows users to quickly assess the nature of the call without actively engaging with the caller.

In conclusion, Apple's iOS 17 update brings a range of new and improved security features to iPhones. These features aim to protect vulnerable users from cyberattacks and spyware, while also enhancing privacy and convenience for the wider population. With advancements in Lockdown Mode, Safari browsing, passkeys, and other innovative additions, iOS 17 sets a new standard for mobile device security and user experience.

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