The new iPhone 14 and iOS update comes with some big cybersecurity changes

Customers shop at the Apple Fifth Avenue store for the release of the Apple iPhone 14 in New York City, September 16, 2022.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

It’s Black Friday and the official start of the holiday shopping season, and there’s a new iPhone 14 on the market for consumers looking to upgrade their Apple device. From better cameras and longer battery life to faster chips, there are plenty of features consumers will consider when buying a new iPhone — that is, if you can find one in what seems like a season out of stock for some of the models. newer than Cupertino.

One new safety feature that has received a lot of attention is emergency satellite connectivity. Cybersecurity may not be among its best-selling selling points, but the new iPhone and iOS16 also have some significant security updates.

Attention to safety is nothing new from Applewhich has made user privacy one of its key messages for years, regularly adding new security features within iOS updates and on new phone models, such as Face ID facial recognition, app tracking prevention, and browsing private.

Better low-light photography capabilities and longer battery life may have an appeal over security updates on the new Apple iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 14 Pro Max. But from the new satellite connectivity features the first eSIM-only Apple phones, the iPhone 14 offers a range of new technologies to further protect your privacy, including the all-new lockout mode.

Lockdown: Apple’s most extreme security mode

All iPhone 14 models come pre-installed with iOS 16, which features a new form of protection called Lockdown Mode. This tool offers an extreme level of protection that prevents malware from gaining access to your phone, blocking most types of message attachments, FaceTime calls and more. While in lockout mode, phone calls, regular text messages, and emergency functions will still work.

You are not required to use this feature, unless you are, or plan to become, a CEO or head of state soon.

“It’s only meant for a small fraction of users who could be targeted by a nation-state threat actor,” said Kathleen Moriarty, chief technology officer at the Center for Internet Security. “That said, he could be the CEO of a company … [an] government official, and that ability to lock down your device and prevent it from running or accessing data on your phone could be critical.”

But the feature may be appealing to a broader base of security-conscious people.

Research has found that more than 90 percent of unknown security bugs reside in code that is rarely executed, said Justin Cappos, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and a member of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of California. New York University. Lockdown mode eliminates that risk, making the phone experience “a little more uncomfortable” for most users.

After testing the lockdown mode, Cappos said the only visual changes he noticed were fonts appearing differently and health app icons not displaying correctly. And because of a very similar user experience and additional security benefits, he plans to use Lockdown Mode as the default app and only exempt when needed.

Android phones have offered a feature called “Lockdown” since 2018, when the feature became available on Android 9. Designed to lock down all biometric security and voice recognition, it works a little differently than Apple’s feature.

Fingerprint, facial and voice identification disabled on Android in Lockdown to prevent someone from accessing your phone. However, once an Android is unlocked via password, pin or pattern, Lockdown is deactivated. While the iPhone keeps your device in locked mode at all times, Android only ensures this security if users re-enable the feature every time they unlock their device.

Despite similar names, Android’s Lockdown is more focused on preventing a phone from being physically hijacked. Apple’s approach emphasizes protecting a device from digital threats. Both modes are, in most cases, not meant for everyday use by the general public, but are features that can help people in high-risk situations.

The move to eSIM-only phones

Steve Jobs never intended the original iPhone to have a SIM card tray and the iPhone 14 models are finally achieving that goal. Apple introduced eSIM cards in 2018, but the new phone series is the first of its kind to do away with the SIM card tray entirely and only use eSIMs for the US market. All iPhone 14 models purchased in the US are eSIM only, allowing users to easily connect and digitally transfer their plans.

“It prevents someone from physically swapping your SIM card if you leave your phone unattended. This has been used to steal accounts of high-profile people like Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter, and also to steal millions in cryptocurrency,” Cappos said . .

While the physical form of identity theft is decreasing, there are still security risks to consider before moving to the eSIM-only iPhone 14.

“Carriers cite security concerns such as an attacker taking over your phone number because you don’t need a physical SIM card for a carrier switch, just the eSIM already on your phone and an SMS code,” Moriarty said. “At the same time, carriers are also concerned because eSIM allows for an easier transition between carriers for the end user, which could hurt user retention.”

Android 9 was the first phone version to implement the use of eSIM. The company has shown a growing effort to offer both SIM and eSIM cards on its newer phones, but no Android is eSIM-only.

Emergency SOS via satellite

In an effort to expand the security features of the iPhone, the new lineup offers Satellite Emergency SOS that allows users to connect directly to a satellite and contact emergency services outside cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. When Emergency SOS is activated, your phone will ask questions to assess your situation and tell you where to point your phone to connect to a satellite. These questions will be sent to Apple-trained specialists who will then call for help.

There is a potential security issue with this new feature.

“It certainly makes situations where someone is stuck or in desperate need much safer for that person. But of course, having additional ways to communicate also provides opportunities for surveillance and stuff like that,” Cappos said.

Apple notes that messages are sent in encrypted form, but are then decrypted by Apple so that emergency services can intervene. Your location will also be shared with Apple and its partners when you use this feature.

“It forces you to trust Apple a little more, but it could also potentially save your life in certain situations,” Cappos said.

Satellite Emergency SOS will launch on iPhone 14 models this month with an iOS 16 software update. However, this feature will only be available in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, along with Canada. Users will be able to use this feature for free for two years from the start of their plan. Later, it could become a paid add-on service for iPhone users.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of Android and other Google services, recently confirmed via Twitter that the company is working on satellite connectivity for the Android 14 operating system, which will require hardware changes from companies that build Android phones.

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