Apple is long awaited iOS 17 update for iPhone arrives today with a number of new and improved security features. Most of the new features aim to protect 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 HomeKitmaking it much more difficult to break into a device and steal its data.
Lockdown mode in iOS 17. Image credits: Sarah Pérez / TechCrunch
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 cell-based exploits that are often used by cell site simulators, or “stingrays”, which law enforcement uses to trick nearby phones into connecting to fake cellular base stations, tracking phone locations, and spying on calls and messages. Stingrays are controversial because they are working over a large area and don’t know what devices they are trapping.
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 follow you on 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.
Safari settings, including anti-tracking protection and fingerprint in iOS 17. Image credits: Sarah Pérez / TechCrunch
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, phishing resistant password replacement which allows you to log in without fear of your passwords being stolen, we are receiving 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.
Share passwords and passkeys in iOS 17. Image credits: Sarah Pérez / TechCrunch
Registration is a new feature that allows iPhone owners to share with their friends when they expect to arrive at their destination safely. 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 have 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.