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Tech tips

How lockdown mode protects vulnerable people in your life from hackers

If you have an iPhone 8 or newer, you may want to update to iOS 16 if you haven’t already. Apple’s latest operating system comes with some cool new features, such as the ability to unsend and edit text messages and lock screen customization.

iOS 16 also introduced essential security features that protect your identity and let you know who has access to information stored on your phone. Tap or click here for new iPhone security features to turn on now.

For an extreme level of protection, there’s Apple’s Lockdown Mode. The company says this feature is intended for people who face serious, targeted threats to their digital security. But anyone can find benefit here — if you’re caring for family members with diminished capacities, you may want to look at Lockdown Mode. Here’s what it does and what it limits. We’ve also got the rundown on Google’s Lockdown Mode for Android phones.

High-profile targets

Apple’s Lockdown Mode changes the functionality of your iPhone. It strictly limits certain apps, websites and features to protect against targeted cyberattacks.

Politicians, lawyers and activists are among the intended users, as they are often targeted by individuals or even state-sponsored hackers. Lockdown Mode shores up the iPhone’s weak spots, preventing spyware infiltration that doesn’t require user interaction.

RELATED: 5 types of cybersecurity threats you should know about

While most people are unlikely to be victims of these types of cyberattacks, other vulnerable groups exist.

Caretakers take note

Kim receives calls from people caring for family members with reduced capabilities, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS. Their caretakers are looking for ways to protect them from doing things they shouldn’t do on their devices.

If you’re caring for someone, you can talk to them about the risks of certain actions they take with their iPhone. You can get them a new phone or “dumb” phone with fewer smart features. Or you can try Lockdown Mode.

RELATED: Apple security tip: Use private browsing to erase your digital tracks (iPhone, iPad, Mac)

The limits of Apple’s Lockdown Mode

When Lockdown Mode is enabled, some apps and features will function differently. It changes what’s accessible on an iPhone:

  • Web browsing: This disables certain features in the Safari browser, which make some websites slow, buggy or unable to load. You can exclude trusted websites from Lockdown Mode by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode > Configure Web Browsing.
  • App restrictions: Certain apps are blocked and restricted. You can exclude trusted apps from Lockdown Mode by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Lockdown Mode > Configure Web Browsing and turning off apps from the menu.
  • Apple Services: Incoming invitations for Apple Services, like calendars and notes, are blocked unless you have previously invited that person.
  • USB accessories: The device needs to be unlocked to connect your device to a USB accessory or another computer.
  • Configuration profiles: Configuration profiles (such as the one for Apple’s public beta programs or school/work networks) can’t be installed.
  • Restricted enrollment: The device can’t be enrolled in Mobile Device Management or device supervision while in Lockdown Mode.

Lockdown Mode affects how you communicate on a personal level, so keep the following in mind:

FaceTime: Incoming FaceTime calls are blocked if you never called that person before. To exclude a contact, turn off Lockdown Mode, make a FaceTime call to that person, then turn Lockdown Mode on again.

Messages: Most message attachments are blocked, other than certain images, videos and audio. Some features, such as links and link previews, are also removed.

Shared albums: Shared albums are removed from the Photos app, and new shared album invitations are blocked. You can still view this content on other devices that don’t have Lockdown Mode enabled.

Enable Lockdown Mode on an iPhone

Now that you know what Lockdown Mode does, here’s how to enable it:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security.
  • Scroll down to the Security section and tap Lockdown Mode.
  • Tap Turn On Lockdown Mode, then tap Turn On Lockdown Mode again on the next screen.
  • Tap Turn On & Restart, then enter your device passcode.

When Lockdown Mode is enabled, you may receive notifications when an app or feature is limited. A banner in Safari also indicates that Lockdown Mode is on.

For more details on Lockdown Mode, check out Apple’s support page here.

Android has its own Lockdown Mode, with important differences

With Android 9 Pie, Google introduced its own Lockdown Mode. This is more of a physical security measure, unlike Apple’s Lockdown Mode, which is more focused on cybersecurity.

The limits of Google’s lockdown mode

Enabling lockdown mode on your Android phone makes it much more difficult to unlock by disabling biometric authentication. Here’s what it does:

  • Facial recognition is disabled.
  • The fingerprint sensor is disabled.
  • Lock screen notifications are disabled.
  • You can only unlock the phone with a PIN, password or gesture.

Enable lockdown mode on most Android phones

You may have to enable lockdown mode on older Android phones before you can use it. Here’s how:

  • Got to Settings > Security & location.
  • Go to Lock screen preferences.
  • Tap to enable Show lockdown option.

Lockdown mode is enabled by default if you’re running Android 11 or later.

Now that it’s enabled, here’s how to use lockdown mode:

  • Press and hold the power button on your phone to reveal the power menu.
  • Tap the Lockdown button, and lockdown mode is enabled. You’ll be right to the lock screen.

Enable lockdown mode on Samsung phones

Lockdown mode isn’t an option in the Power menu by default on Samsung devices and needs to be turned on. Here’s how:

  • Go to Settings > Lock screen.
  • Go to Lock Screen > Secure lock settings.
  • Tap to enable Show lockdown option.

Now that you’ve enabled lockdown mode on your Samsung phone, here’s how to use it:

  • From your home screen, swipe down twice.
  • Tap the power icon at the top of your screen to get to the power menu.
  • Tap Lockdown mode.

NOTE: This security setting is a one-time use — whenever you unlock your phone while lockdown mode is enabled, the setting will be turned off. You’ll have to follow the above steps to turn it on again.

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