iOS 16 lands today with these five new security and privacy features • TechCrunch

iOS 16 lands today with these five new security and privacy features • TechCrunch

Apple’s long-awaited iOS 16 update for iPhones lands on Monday with new security and privacy features aimed at preventing spyware, protecting users from domestic and spousal abuse and replacing passwords that let hackers break into your online accounts.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect to see after you install.

Lock mode

A new security feature, Lock Mode temporarily disables certain core functions on your iPhone that are often misused by spyware manufacturers to break through an iPhone’s security defenses. By blocking these features, your iPhone’s attack surface is significantly reduced to make it harder for someone to remotely plant spyware on your device. It targets at-risk groups of people, such as journalists, activists, human rights defenders and even politicians whose phones are often targeted by their own governments.

A screenshot of Lock Mode in iOS 16, which blocks certain iOS features that are sometimes abused by spyware from working.

Lock Mode blocks certain iOS features, which are sometimes abused by spyware, from working. Image credit: TechCrunch

TechCrunch gave Lock Down Mode a spin earlier this year to see how it works. Although the security feature limits what you can do on your iPhone (it mostly provides friction – small moments of inconvenience – for the device owner), the mode makes it that much harder for attackers to compromise the phone and its data.

Fast security response

iOS 16 has two tracks of automatic updates, one for your iOS software and the other is Rapid Security Response, a new option that lets your iPhone install security fixes as soon as Apple releases them. The idea is to push critical security updates to devices without necessarily having to install a full update each time.

A screenshot of automatic updates in iOS 16 showing a new setting, "Security answers and system files"

A new feature in iOS 16 includes “Security Responses and System Files” updates that are sent to devices over-the-air and installed silently. Image credit: TechCrunch

This means Apple can push out emergency updates to devices, for example to protect users from actively exploited zero-day vulnerabilities, without having to rely on device owners to finish the job with a phone reboot.

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Further good news for macOS Ventura users, who will also receive rapid security updates when desktop and laptop updates are released.

Security check

A new feature in iOS 16 is Safety Check, a bit like a panic button, in the sense that it allows you to immediately cut off all shared access to your accounts and data in the event of a dangerous situation, such as an abusive marriage. As we explored earlier this year, the feature includes an “emergency reset” option that immediately resets all access that someone has to your messages, apps, real-time location and other personal information.

A screenshot of Safety Check, a new feature that lets you disconnect people, apps, and devices "if the circumstances or the level of confidence change."

A screenshot of Safety Check, a new feature that lets you disconnect people, apps, and devices “if circumstances or trust levels change,” such as in a domestic relationship. Image credit: TechCrunch

Safety Check is a thoughtful approach to real-world circumstances that many face on a daily basis and recognizes that the technologies we use can also have dire consequences.

Access keys

The end of passwords is a long way off, but passwords could be the mass adoption of passwordless authentication we’ve been hoping for. Apple Passkeys let you sign in to websites and apps using your device, instead of a password, which can be leaked, lost or stolen, by authenticating with your face or fingerprint with Face ID or Touch ID.

A screenshot showing a new sign-in method on an Apple website, which allows you to use your device as a "password."

A screenshot showing a new sign-in method on an Apple website, which allows you to use your device as a “Passkey”. Image credit: TechCrunch

Passkeys use a common standard set by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium, which allows the passwordless technology to work across devices and platforms. Apple, Google and Microsoft have so far signed up for the group work. TechCrunch has an explanation of what passwords are, how they work, and what happens next.

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Copy and paste permission

And finally: a small but important security addition to the mix, iOS 16 now blocks apps from accessing the contents of your phone’s clipboard. In practice, this means that apps can’t automatically see what text, image or content you’ve copied and ready to paste into another app. It will prevent apps from automatically reading sensitive information, like a password copied from your password manager, or loading up the data without your permission.

A new security feature called Pasteboard Protection blocks apps from reading your iPhone clipboard without your permission.

A new security feature called Pasteboard Protection blocks apps from reading your iPhone clipboard without your permission. Image credit: TechCrunch

Now iOS 16 lets you allow pasting or disallow pasting. It’s an extra step for you, but it saves your private data from being pasted on the internet without your knowledge.

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