Apple tackles spyware with “Isolation”, what does it change?

Apple just introduced a new feature called Isolation mode. It aims to better protect users who may be targeted by sophisticated hacking methods. For the American giant, this novelty is a response to criticism concerning the security of the iPhone.

The privacy and security are two themes dear to Apple. Tim Cook regularly emphasizes these two elements by offering new products. The objective is to allow Apple users to take control of their personal data, but also to stand out from the competition. In 2026, the boss of Apple sent a strong signal by refusing to help the FBI decipher an iPhone 5c after the San Bernardino shooting.

The gesture of the firm had caught the attention and allowed the group to remind that the respect of the private life is not negotiated. It also contributes to the image that Apple has forged around its closed and reputedly more secure ecosystem. Behind the speech Apple faces another much less rosy reality.

Apple Tagline
© Apple

In recent years, iPhone security has been questioned several times in serious cases like Pegasus. The spyware exploited a flaw in iOS to spy on users, including journalists, heads of state, ministers or political opponents. A real spy scandal who tarnished Apple’s image; recalling that iPhones are regularly infected with malware.

Faced with the scale of the case, Apple reacted by filing a complaint and proposing an update to counter Pegasus. The California firm comes back today with a “lockdown mode” or “Isolation mode”.

Isolation mode, what is it?

The “Isolation” mode is the Apple’s new feature to fight spyware. It concerns almost all of the brand’s devices and will be officially available “this fall” on iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura. iPhones, Macs and other recent MacBooks will therefore integrate by “Isolation”.

Apple Isolation lockdown mode
© Apple

Apple presents it as a mode offering “extremely and optional protection” to its users. This “lockdown mode” must indeed thwart the plans of the most sophisticated spyware.

How it works ?

Once activated, this mode will disable a series of features to “isolate” the device as much as possible and resist the most sophisticated attacks. Apple has chosen a method with this mode and announces that its “Isolation” protection will include, at the time of its launch, the following protections:

  • Posts : Most types of attachments other than images are blocked. Some features, such as link previews, are disabled.
  • web browsing : Certain complex web technologies, such as just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from isolation mode.
  • Apple Services : Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has never sent a call or request to their sender before.
  • The wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
  • None configuration profile cannot be installed and the device cannot enroll in a mobile device management (MDM) solution when Isolation mode is enabled.

By ignoring certain basic or advanced functionalities, it will be necessary to do with poor user experience on iPhone. Apple’s choices are logical, however, and are justified by the fact that calls, attachments or web browsing are gateways for malware. For example, NSO Group’s Pegasus exploited a vulnerability in iMessage to infect iPhones.

Apple Isolation lockdown mode
© Apple

Who is concerned ? Probably not you

The Cupertino company will offer this functionality on its main operating systems. Yet there is unlikely that you will ever need to use it to protect you. Indeed, this mode targets a very specific audience as Apple explains on its site. It is intended “to the rare users who, because of what they do or who they are, can be personally targeted by extremely sophisticated digital threats”. Concretely, the firm refers to spyware developed by private companies on behalf of a state, such as Pegasus.

The journalists, activists, politicians, business personalities ; some lawyers or political opponents – who fear being the target of a cyberattack – may be interested in this mode.

An admission of weakness from Apple

Lockdown mode provides an additional layer of security to Apple devices. It is a strong response from the manufacturer to deal with the multiplication of cyberattacks. The method chosen by the manufacturer, which implies a degradation of the user experience, also bears witness to Cupertino’s powerlessness to deal with spyware dealers. To protect these most exposed users, the American giant has no choice but to curb its services.

In addition, strengthening the defenses of devices by limiting certain functionalities could only be illusory. Spyware has a reputation for being discreet and it will be difficult to assess the effectiveness of this function. Finally, we can ask questions about the use that will actually be made of this mode by users. The restrictions imposed are likely to push iPhone owners to regularly deactivate the option; with the risk of being vulnerable again.

On the sidelines of the presentation of “Isolation mode”, Apple announces $10 million grantin addition to the damages resulting from the legal action against NSO Group, to support the organizations “that track, denounce and prevent targeted cyberattacks”. The sum will be donated to the Dignity and Justice Fund.

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