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Apple plans new features to protect journalists and human rights workers from spyware

(CNN Business)Apple will release new features this fallon WednesdayAnnounced. IPhone, Mac, and iPad operating software designed to protect high-risk users, such as journalists and human rights workers, from advanced spyware related to human rights violations.

This is the biggest step ever by a leading tech company to fight the profitable spyware industry, where tools can break into devices without the victim clicking anything. It is one. It also happens when the Biden administration continues to curb the use of spyware.

A new feature called Lockdown Mode makes your iPhone and some other devices effective from attack methods such as email attachments and annoying FaceTime calls with the push of a button. Can be closed to.

However, there are some trade-offs for users in lockdown mode. The device owner can use certainApple (AAPL)features to other when the phone is on. You will not be able to physically connect to your computer Lock screen, or enroll in a mobile device management program that some employers use to manage their work phones.
There are over 1 billion iPhones around the world. This new feature is targeted at a small number of Apple users targeted by spyware. Apple refused to identify the number of customers targeted by spyware because of an ongoing lawsuit. However, the company said it is currently informing customers in about 150 countries that it may be the target of spyware. Google's mobile operating system, the most widely used Android, had to fightas well as spyware.

This announcement recognizes that spyware is a global issue and that the top engineering talents of surveillance companies such as NSO Group and tech giants conflict with each other. Spyware makers may try to find a way around lockdown mode. To explain this, Apple said it would pay security researchers up to $ 2 million to report vulnerabilities in new features.

Apple continues to emphasize that spyware rarely breaks into devices, but there are some cases where it gets noticed that it happened. Last September, Apple made a significant update to its operating software after it was discovered that spyware allegedly developed by NSO Group was being used to track Saudi dissidents. Has been released. Apple then sued NSO Groupfor violating federal anti-hacking legislation. NSO Group has long claimed to sell software only to authorized users for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes.

From Morocco to Mexico and Singapore, digital forensics has used spyware for multiple technology platforms used to track the movement of human rights workers . Discovered and built by various sellers. Embassy workers and other targets. According to a 2019 study by the University of Toronto's Digital Rights Research Center, Citizen Lab, one such target was said to be the wife of a murdered Mexican journalist who was investigating a drug cartel. rice field.

"There is undeniable evidence that the mercenary spyware industry is driving the spread of authoritarian practices and contributing to large-scale human rights violations," Citizen Lab Director Ron Dabert locked down this week. I told journalists prior to the announcement of the mode. ..

Apple also announced that it will donate $ 10 million to the Ford Foundation-advised grant provider, the Dignity and Justice Fund, to support efforts to investigate and raise awareness of spyware. (Deibert is on the advisory board of the grant fund.)

The Biden administration has surged spyware by adding Candiru, another Israeli vendor to NSO Group, to the Commerce Department's list. I tried to crack down on it. US business with companies.

A potential national security threat to spyware caught attention when the iPhones of about 12 U.S. State Department employees servicing Africa were hacked with NSO Group's signature products. I did.CNN previously reported.

A spokesperson for NSO Group said in an answer at the time that after the company learned of the case, "due to the seriousness of the allegations, it decided to immediately terminate access to the relevant customer's system. ". "In this case, there was no sign that NSO's tools were used," a spokeswoman said.