NSO's Pegasus prompts Apple to develop Lockdown Mode: Report
A Techdirt report says the FBI is expected to complain about Apple's new Lockdown Mode that protects users from state-sponsored espionage.
Apple unveiled last week a new way for activists, journalists, and other targets of state-sponsored espionage to protect themselves from spyware.
A Lockdown Mode being added to iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers is intended to counter threats from a thriving industry that provides sophisticated espionage tools to governments.
Concerns over digital espionage have been fueled by media outlets reporting that Pegasus spyware made by Israeli NSO Group was being used by governments to surveil opponents, activists, and journalists.
Apple's Lockdown Mode is designed to block or disable some features and capabilities to prevent them from being taken advantage of by spyware.
The extreme, optional mode "hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware," Apple explained.
On this matter, Techdirt website said, "Expect the FBI to take the lead on the complaining."
According to the website, the FBI has "spent years claiming encryption dead-ends investigations and allows criminals to hide evidence from investigators. It will likely make the same claim about this option, even as it publicly admits state-sponsored hacking is an omnipresent concern."
The website pointed out that the FBI and Britain’s MI5 intelligence claimed that Chinese spies pose an “immense” threat to “our economic and national security,” adding that Beijing's hacking program is “bigger than that of every other major country combined.”
Techdirt considered that "according to the FBI, it’s okay for the government and large businesses to protect themselves against malicious hackers by limiting attack services and deploying encryption. But it’s not okay for the average iPhone user to do the same thing because a cop may possibly want to examine a device’s contents at some point."
Pegasus infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.
It is noteworthy that Apple is suing NSO Group in a US federal court, saying the Israeli firm's spyware was used to attack iPhone users worldwide.
Last year, the US blacklisted the firm, stating that it had sold software that had been used to "maliciously attack" government officials, journalists, businesses, activists, academics, and diplomatic personnel.
In an investigation by the New York Times, Pegasus was found to have been bought secretly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which completely violated the constitutional privacy rights of US Americans by conducting millions of searches on their data.
NSO Group has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its powerful Pegasus spyware to authoritarian regimes, that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, and accusations that it played a role in Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.
Hungary, India, Spain, Mexico, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia are some countries listed in a report last July that details how the spyware was used by governments to spy on journalists and critics.