Apple shuts down spyware with Lockdown Mode

Plus, Hunter Biden is hacked again and the AFF dive into deep tech.

Currently in beta and expected to ship in the fall, Apple’s new Lockdown Mode removes certain features and functionalities from iPhones, iPads, and other macOS-powered devices in order to neutralize zero-click exploits. The mode blocks incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, and it disables complex web technologies like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation. It also blocks the installation of configuration profiles and disables enrollment into mobile device management (MDM) systems. “Apple has a history of downplaying the security risks on their devices, and with this move, they acknowledge that they are a target and vulnerable as any other,” said Avast Security Evangelist Luis Corrons. “New options to secure devices are always welcome, and this ‘hardening mode’ approach has been used in the security industry for years.” The new Lockdown Mode was designed to protect journalists, political activists, and dissidents targeted by nation-state spyware. For more on this story, see SecurityWeek

Hunter Biden’s iCloud backup hacked

A 4chan user claims to have hacked into Hunter Biden’s iCloud backup and then recovered many files belonging to the president’s son. The user posted several screenshots that show the iPhone Backup Extractor interface with the caption “iPhone contains voice mails, videos, voice recordings, pictures etc of Joe. In this ZIP are two folders, one for an ipad and the other for iphone backup.” The user also posted photos of Hunter Biden that do not appear anywhere else online, giving credence to the notion that the hack is legitimate. While iCloud backups do increase a user’s attack surface, if one uses a strong password and two-factor authentication, files stored there can be relatively safe. FBI are investigating, but at this point, it is still unclear how the hacker got into Biden’s account. For more, see VICE

New spec execution attack Retbleed pulls leaked info

Microprocessors from Intel and AMD are vulnerable to a newly discovered speculative execution attack known as Retbleed, which covertly leaks sensitive data from the retpoline defensive measure. Retpoline, a software defense construct, was introduced in 2018 to mitigate the harmful effects of speculative execution attacks by using a series of return operations to isolate indirect branches, but Retbleed proves that these return instructions can unfortunately leak under certain conditions. Retbleed uses code that essentially poisons the branch prediction unit that CPUs rely on to make their guesses. Once the poisoning is complete, the BPU makes mispredictions that the attacker can then control. For more, see Ars Technica

America’s Frontier Fund invests in deep tech

A new investment trust known as America’s Frontier Fund (AFF) will be used to support innovation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, fusion, microelectronics, 6G cellular technology, advanced manufacturing, and synthetic biology. The fund is bankrolled by the White House and tech heavyweights Peter Thiel, Eric Schmidt, and Craig Newmark. The goal is to give the U.S. an edge over China when it comes to deep technologies, including cybersecurity. “Cyber’s going to radically change over the next five or six years from the traditional way that we think of layered defenses into a much more real-time algorithmic kind of competition,” AFF CEO Gilman Louie commented, adding, “It’s going to be machine on machine.” For more on this, see Cyberscoop.

This week’s must-read on the Avast blog

To combat the ever-growing issue of tech abuse, we’ve joined forces with Refuge to create a digital break-up kit that equips women with the knowledge to effectively and safely break up digitally. Read up on our recent post to find out more about the kit.

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