iOS 17 Security & Privacy

Apple’s iOS 17, released last week, contains several interesting privacy and security features. Here’s a quick overview.

Lockdown Mode

Apple introduced Lockdown Mode in iOS 16 which was designed to protect iPhones against “extremely rare and highly sophisticated cyber attacks”. While Apple didn’t mention the NSO Group’s Pegasus by name, they did say that the mode was designed to “reduce the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware”.

Despite what Apple says, I personally think that many people might want to enable Lockdown Mode for added security. It really doesn’t impinge much on your everyday experience. I think the most obvious limitation is not showing website previews in Messages.

In iOS 17, Apple extends Lockdown Mode with a few new important and welcome security protections:

  • Blocks automatic connections to insecure WiFi networks and 2G cellular networks which can be used by law enforcement to track you (“stingrays“).
  • Automatically removes geolocation information from photos that you upload/send. (If you’re not aware, smartphone photos usually embed GPS coordinates in the photos you take.)
  • It now affects your Apple Watch, as well – not just iPhone, iPad and macOS.

You can enable Lockdown Mode by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode (scroll all the way to the bottom). It will require a restart. But read Apple’s article first, so you understand what it will do. You can easily disable this mode using the same process, however.

Check In Feature

How often have you or a loved one been in a situation where you wanted someone else to know where you were going and when you were going to arrive, just in case you didn’t? Maybe you send a text message with your destination and ETA. Maybe you even call someone to talk to them while you walk through a dark area or drive in bad weather. Well, someone at Apple got the bright idea to automate this process with a new feature called Check In.

With this feature, you can use the Messages app to choose someone you know to automatically notify them if you fail to arrive at your destination. You can set the feature to track your progress towards a specific destination or to notify them at a certain time if you fail to check in. If the alarm is triggered, you can set your phone to share your last known location, battery level and signal strength.

Sharing Passwords & Blocking URL Tracking

You can use the new Family Password feature to securely and privately share passwords with family members or really anyone else with an iPhone (running iOS 17 or later). You just go to Settings > Passwords and create a new Family Passwords group. Add people to the group and then add whatever passwords (or passkeys) you want to share. (Note that most modern password managers have a similar sharing feature, too.)

And finally, iOS 17 now has options to automatically strip tracking information from web links in Safari, Messages and Mail. It’s not uncommon these days for hyperlinks to include extraneous information that’s used to pass information to the site you’re going to, information that is used to track you. With iOS 17, your iPhone can strip this information automatically – either in private mode or always. I see no reason not to do this always. Go to Settings > Safari > Advanced and turn on Advanced Tracking and Fingerprint Protection.

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