How to protect your iPhone, iPad or Mac with lockdown mode

The average iPhone owner shouldn’t have to worry about a coordinated cyberattack against them. But in some cases, cybercriminals and other parties will deploy targeted attacks against specific people, including government officials, human rights defenders, and journalists. Apple’s lockdown mode allows victims to respond in kind to protect themselves.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, Lockdown Mode was introduced with the release of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. This optional feature effectively disables or restricts certain features and settings on your device. The goal is to prevent malware, spyware, and other threats from exploiting or compromising your personal information.

While Apple emphasizes that most people should never have to take the drastic step of enabling lockdown mode, knowing how to use this feature is important if you’re in a group or profession that might be targeted by spyware and other threats. .

What does lockdown mode do?

Lockdown mode received attention in 2022 when it thwarted an attack against a human rights group by spyware vendor NSO Group. The PwnYourHome exploit was able to secretly infect the Apple Messages app and tamper with Apple’s HomeKit software. But users with lockdown mode enabled received warnings and were able to avoid becoming a victim.

So what does the function actually do? According to Apple, enabling lockdown mode affects specific apps and features in the following ways:

  • Messages: Other than certain images, videos, and audio, most types of message attachments are blocked. Links and link previews, among other features, will also not work. Phone calls, plain text messages, and SOS emergency calls will still work.

  • Searching the web: Certain complex web technologies are blocked, an action that could cause some websites to run slower or not work at all. Web fonts will also not display and images may not appear.

  • FaceTime: All incoming FaceTime calls are blocked unless you’ve already called the person on the other end.

  • apple services: Apple’s own services are limited, so incoming invites, like those to manage a home in the Home app, are blocked unless you’ve previously invited that person.

  • Shared albums: Shared albums are removed from the Photos app, while new Shared album invitations are blocked. You can still view shared albums on other devices that don’t have lockdown mode enabled. After turning off lockdown mode, you’ll need to turn Shared Albums back on in your device’s settings.

  • Device Connections: To connect your iPhone or iPad to an accessory or another computer, the device must be unlocked. To connect your Mac notebook with an Apple chip(Opens in a new window) to an accessory, you must unlock your Mac and explicitly approve the action.

  • Configuration profiles: You cannot install configuration profiles or enroll your device in Mobile Device Management or device supervision.

Enable lockdown mode on an iPhone or iPad

Touch Activate blocking mode

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To enable lockdown mode on your mobile device, you must be running iOS 16 or iPadOS 16. Open Settings > General > Software update verify. You will be informed that your operating system is up to date or you will be prompted to install the latest update.

To activate lockdown mode on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Privacy and security. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap the button lock mode option. Tap Activate blocking mode to get things started.

Tap Activate and restart

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

The next screen will go over how lockdown mode will affect your device. At the bottom, tap Activate blocking mode. A confirmation message appears asking if you want to confirm. Tap power on and restart and enter your password to reset your iPhone or iPad.

Try to use the restricted functions

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

Sign back into your device to see what features and functions are disabled or restricted with lockdown mode in effect. As you can see, Screen Time will stop working, certain messages will not be able to be opened, and incoming FaceTime calls will be blocked.

When you are ready to deactivate lockdown mode, go back to Settings > Privacy and security and touch lock mode. Tap Disable lockdown mode and then touch shutdown and restart. Enter your password to reset your device.

Disable lockdown mode

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

Once your device has rebooted, log back in and you’ll see that features that were once disabled or limited now work properly again.

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Enable lockdown mode on a Mac

Click the button to power on and restart

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To test lockdown mode on your Mac, make sure you’re running macOS Ventura or higher. To upgrade from a previous version, click the Apple menu icon and select About this Mac. Click the button to Software update and then click on the Update now button.

To enable lockdown mode, go to System settings and select Privacy & Security. Scroll down the screen and click on the Light button next to lock mode. Confirm the action with your password or Touch ID, then click the power on and restart button.

Try to use the restricted functions

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

Sign back into your Mac to see that many of your computer’s features have been restricted or disabled entirely. For example, you can’t open certain messages while in lockdown mode.

Disable lockdown mode

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To deactivate lockdown mode, go back to System settings > Privacy & Security. Scroll down the screen and click on the To turn off button next to lock mode. Confirm the action with your password or Touch ID. Then click on the shutdown and restart button.

Sign back in to see that the features and actions that were restricted by lockdown mode have now been removed, so everything should now work as expected again.

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