Here’s how to secure your iPhone, iPad, or Mac using lockdown mode

The average iPhone owner shouldn’t have to worry about a coordinated cyberattack targeting them. In some cases, however, cybercriminals and other parties carry out targeted attacks against specific individuals, including government officials, human rights activists, and journalists. Apple’s lockdown mode allows victims to take action for their own protection.

Lockdown mode is available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac and was introduced with the release of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. This optional feature effectively disables or restricts certain features and settings on your device. The goal is to prevent malware, spyware, and other threats from exploiting or compromising your personal information.

Although Apple emphasizes that most people should never take the drastic step of turning on lockdown mode, it’s important to know how to use this feature if you belong to a group or profession that could be targeted by spyware and other threats .

What does lockdown mode do?

The lockdown mode attracted attention in 2022 when it thwarted an attack by spyware provider NSO Group on a human rights group. The PwnYourHome exploit was able to stealthily infect the Apple Messages app and manipulate Apple’s HomeKit software. But users with lockdown mode enabled received warnings and managed to avoid becoming a victim.

What does the function actually do? According to Apple, enabling lockdown mode affects certain apps and features in the following ways:

Messages: Most types of message attachments are blocked, with the exception of certain images, videos, and audio files. Links and link previews do not work, among other functions. Phone calls, plain text messages and SOS emergency calls will still work.

Browsing the Internet: Certain complex web technologies are blocked. This can cause some websites to run slower or not work at all. Web fonts are also not displayed and images may not be displayed.

FaceTime: All incoming FaceTime calls are blocked unless you’ve already called the person on the other end.

Apple services: Apple’s own services are restricted, so incoming invitations, such as to manage a home in the Home app, are blocked unless you’ve invited that person first.

Shared albums: Shared albums are removed from the Photos app, while new invitations to shared albums are blocked. You can still view shared albums on other devices that don’t have lockdown mode enabled. After you disable lockdown mode, you must re-enable Shared Albums in your device settings.

Device connections: To connect your iPhone or iPad to an accessory or another computer, the device must be unlocked. To connect your Mac laptop with an Apple chip (opens in a new window) to an accessory, you must unlock your Mac and explicitly authorize the action.

Configuration profiles: You cannot install configuration profiles or enroll your device in mobile device management or device monitoring.

Activate lockdown mode on an iPhone or iPad

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To enable lockdown mode on your mobile device, you must be running iOS 16 or iPadOS 16. To check, open Settings > General > Software update. You will be informed that your operating system is up to date or you will be prompted to install the latest update.

To enable lockdown mode on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Privacy & Security. Swipe down to the bottom of the screen and tap on the Lock mode option. Tap “Turn on lockdown mode” to get started.

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

The next screen tells you how lockdown mode affects your device. At the bottom, tap Turn on lockdown mode. A confirmation message will appear asking if you want to confirm. Tap “Turn on and restart” and enter your passcode to restart your iPhone or iPad.

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

Sign in to your device again to see which features and functions are disabled or restricted when lockdown mode is on. As you can see, Screen Time has stopped working, certain messages cannot be opened, and incoming FaceTime calls are blocked.

When you’re ready to turn off lockdown mode, go back to Settings > Privacy & security and tap Lockdown mode. Tap Disable Lockdown Mode, then tap Power Off and Restart. Enter your passcode to restart your device.

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

After your device restarts, sign in again and make sure that the features that were previously disabled or restricted are now working properly again.

Recommended by our editors: enable lockdown mode on a Mac

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To try lockdown mode on your Mac, make sure you’re running macOS Ventura or later. To upgrade from a previous version, click the Apple menu icon and choose About This Mac. Click the “Software Update” button and then click the “Update Now” button.

To enable lockdown mode, go to System Preferences and select Privacy & Security. Scroll down the screen and click the “Turn on” button next to “Lockdown mode”. Confirm the action with your password or Touch ID, then click the “Power on and restart” button.

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

Log back into your Mac and find that many features on your computer have been restricted or disabled entirely. For example, you cannot open certain messages in lockdown mode.

(Credit: Lance Whitney/Apple)

To disable lockdown mode, go back to System Preferences > Privacy & Security. Scroll down the screen and click on the “Turn off” button next to “Lockdown mode”. Confirm the action with your password or Touch ID. Then click the “Turn off and restart” button.

Sign in again to see that the features and actions restricted by lockdown mode have now been lifted and everything should now be working as intended again.

Apple fan?

Sign up for our weekly Apple Brief to get the latest news, reviews, tips and more straight to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertisements, offers or affiliate links. By subscribing to a newsletter, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe anytime.