Customers shop at the Apple Fifth Avenue store for the release of the Apple iPhone 14 in New York, 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 for consumers in the market looking to upgrade their Apple device. From better cameras and longer battery life to faster chips, consumers will consider many features when buying a new iPhone, that is, if you can find any one in the middle of what looks like a season out of supply of some of Cupertino’s newest models.
A new safety feature that has caught the eye is emergency satellite connectivity. Cybersecurity may not be a major selling point, but the new iPhone and iOS16 also get significant security upgrades.
The focus on safety is nothing new Applewhich has made user privacy one of its key messages for years, regularly adding new security features in iOS updates and on new phone models, such as Face ID facial recognition, app tracking and private browsing.
Improved low-light photo capabilities and extended battery life may be more appealing than security upgrades on the new Apple iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 14 Pro Max. But from new satellite connectivity features to Apple’s first-ever eSIM phones, the iPhone 14 offers a range of new technologies to further protect your privacy, including the all-new Lock Mode.
Lock: Apple’s most extreme security mode
All iPhone 14 models come preinstalled with iOS 16, which features a new form of protection called Lock 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. In lock mode, phone calls, plain text messages and emergency functions will continue to work.
You are not expected to use this feature unless you are, or plan to become soon, a CEO or Head of State.
“It is only intended for a small portion of users who could be targeted by a nation-state threat actor,” said Kathleen Moriarty, director of technology at the Center for Internet Security. “That being said, it could be a CEO for a company… [an] government official, and this ability to lock down the device and prevent execution or access to data on your phone could be critical.”
But the feature may be attractive to a broader base of security-conscious individuals.
Research has found that more than 90% of unknown security bugs reside in infrequently executed code, said Justin Cappos, associate professor of computer science and engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and fellow from the Center for Cybersecurity at New York University. Lock mode removes that risk, while making the phone experience “a bit more inconvenient” for most users.
After testing Lock Mode, Cappos said the only visual changes he noticed were fonts appearing differently and health app icons not displaying correctly. And due to a very similar user experience and additional security benefits, it plans to use the default lockdown mode and only exempt apps when needed.
Android phones have had a feature called “Lockdown” since 2018, when the feature became available in Android 9. Designed to block all biometric security and voice recognition, it works a bit differently than Apple’s feature.
Disabling Fingerprint, Face and Voice ID on Android in Lockdown to prevent someone from accessing your phone. However, once an Android is unlocked via password, pin, or pattern, the lock is disabled. While iPhone keeps your device in lock mode at all times, Android only provides that security if users re-enable the feature every time they unlock their device.
Despite the similar names, Android’s Lockdown focuses more on preventing a phone from being physically hacked. Apple’s approach emphasizes protecting a device against digital threats. Both modes are, in most cases, not intended for everyday use by the general public, but 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 finally achieve that goal. Apple introduced eSIM cards in 2018, but the new series of phones is the first of its kind to completely eliminate the SIM card tray and only use eSIM for the US market. All iPhone 14 models purchased in the US are eSIM only, allowing users to easily connect and transfer their plans digitally.
“It prevents someone from physically swapping your SIM card if you leave your phone unattended. It’s been used to steal accounts for the likes of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and also to steal millions in crypto- currency,” Cappos said. .
Although 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 issues such as an attacker taking over your phone number as there is no physical SIM card required for a carrier switch, just the eSIM already on the phone and a code SMS,” Moriarty said. “At the same time, carriers are also affected because the eSIM allows for easier transition between carriers for the end user, which could hurt user retention.”
Android 9 was the first version of the phone to implement the use of eSIM. The company has made increasing efforts to offer both SIM and eSIM cards on its new phones, but no Android is eSIM-only.
Satellite Emergency SOS
In an effort to extend the safety features of the iPhone, the new lineup offers Satellite Emergency SOS that allows users to connect directly to a satellite and contact emergency services when in outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. When Emergency SOS is activated, the phone will ask questions to assess the user’s situation and tell them where to point their phone in order 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 dire need much safer for that person. But, of course, having additional means of communication also provides opportunities for monitoring and things like that,” Cappos said.
Apple notes that the messages are sent in encrypted form but are then decrypted by Apple so that emergency services can respond. Your location will also be shared with Apple and its partners when using this feature.
“It forces you to trust Apple a bit more, but it could also potentially save your life in some situations,” Cappos said.
Satellite Emergency SOS is launching this month on iPhone 14 models with an iOS 16 software update. However, this feature will only be available in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Islands American Virgins, as well as in Canada. Users will be able to use this feature for free for two years from the start of their plan. After that, it might become an additional paid service for iPhone users.
Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president for 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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