Last week, the Australian prime minister offered some safety advice for iPhone users, suggesting that everyone should turn off their iPhone for five minutes every night. On the surface, this may seem like harmless advice for iPhone users, but the reality is a bit more nuanced.
Indeed, such broad and generalized statements as this one can do most people a disservice. Here because.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made the comment last week underlining the need for the country to “counter cyber risks” proactively. “We all have a responsibility. Simple stuff, turn off your phone every night for five minutes. For people watching this, do it every 24 hours, do it while brushing your teeth or whatever you’re doing,” Albanese explained.
Albanese’s advice is not necessarily bad advice. In fact, it builds on similar guidance that the US National Security Agency (NSA) issued in August 2020. But the NSA’s advice was far more specific and nuanced than what Albanese outlined during his speech last week. week.
In its breakdown of “Mobile Best Practices,” the NSA says that restarting your iPhone once a week can “Sometimes prevent” things like spear phishing and zero-click exploits. These types of threats, however, are highly targeted and generally target specific individuals or groups of individuals.
Other tips offered by the NSA include things like disabling Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular when not in use, using a “drown microphone case and covered camera,” and more. This kind of advice, as pointed out by security expert Troy Hunt on Twitter, it is intended for the “intelligence community, not the general masses”.
Spear phishing is a more extreme version of phishing that aims to gather information from targeted individuals and businesses. It often involves months of research and reconnaissance before being deployed against the targeted individual or organization. It can be used to steal personal data and information or to install malware on the targeted person’s device.
Zero-click exploits are dangerous because they can compromise a device without the user doing anything. The vast majority of zero-click exploits, however, don’t target everyday iPhone users. Instead, they are state-sponsored attacks by governments with poor human rights records, developed to spy on political opponents, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists.
Apple’s Lockdown Mode
Last July, Apple introduced something it calls Lockdown Mode. This feature was announced as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to protect users from this type of highly targeted mercenary spyware. Lockdown Mode is built into every iPhone running iOS 16 and later and includes extreme protections to limit exposure to zero-click exploits.
- Messages: Most types of message attachments other than images are blocked. Some features, such as link previews, are disabled.
- Apple Services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request.
- Wired connections to a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
- Configuration profiles cannot be installed and the device cannot enroll in mobile device management (MDM), while lockdown mode is active.
“Blockdown mode is an extreme, optional protection that should only be used if you believe you could be personally targeted by a highly sophisticated cyberattack,” Apple explains. “Most people are never targeted by attacks of this nature.”
Apple says “very few users” should have lock mode enabled on their iPhone. This primarily includes people who “may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats” because of who they are or what they do.
The Australian prime minister’s advice isn’t necessarily wrong, but it lacks key nuances.
While it’s true that restarting an iPhone on a weekly or daily basis may slightly help reduce the threat posed by spear phishing and zero-click exploits, these aren’t threats most users need to worry about. In fact, for most users that Do need to worry about these threats, Apple’s Lockdown Mode exists as a much more robust solution.
Essentially what Albanese did was pick one piece of advice aimed at the security community, remove the nuance, and pass it off as a blanket piece of advice for all iPhone users.
For the average, reasonable iPhone user, however, Albanian could do more harm than good. Any reasonable iPhone user might read Albanese’s quote and walk away with the impression that all he needs to do to protect himself and his devices is restart the phone once a day. If you are reading 9to5Macchances are you know that’s actually not true.
Apple has a robust set of features built right into iOS that can help everyday iPhone users keep themselves and their data safe. Taking advantage of these features, many of which are turned on by default, is the best way for iPhone users to safeguard their data. This ranges from things like Face ID to protections in Safari, location sharing, App Store rules, two-factor authentication and much more. iMessage, for example, offers incredibly strong protection for users thanks to its use of end-to-end encryption.
My take is this: iPhone users can ignore the “advice” offered by the Australian prime minister. Instead, he spends some time reviewing Apple’s built-in tools for privacy and security. One of the most crucial things in my opinion is to use a strong and unique password for every website, app and service you access. Better yet, if that website offers passkey support, use it instead.
Another key is to make sure you’re always running the latest version of iOS on your iPhone. Apple regularly releases new versions of iOS with important security fixes and other improvements. This also applies to older iPhones still running iOS 15, for which Apple recently released iOS 15.7.7 with security fixes.
For those keeping track at home, iOS 15 is supported up until the iPhone 6S, which was released in 2015. That’s a staggering eight years of firmware updates and security fixes.
Finally, how Troy Hunt puts it succinctly on Twitter: “The nastiest things the masses are likely to experience are apps that ask for excessive permissions. Turning off your phone while brushing your teeth does not solve the problem. Being selective of the apps you install and the permissions you grant is the solution.
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