Phishing, the act of using fraudulent text fields to maliciously gather login credentials and other sensitive information, is a serious security concern.
If you need proof of that, consider a proof of concept phishing attack created and shared by developer Felix Krause last October. Krause proved how easy it is to replicate otherwise trustworthy entities and simply ask users to give up their sensitive data.
Phishing attacks work because people trust their iOS devices. Normally, that’s not an issue. But iOS users are used to getting pop-ups asking for their Apple ID and password when routinely using their devices. Phishing attacks prey on that trust.
And while phishing iOS apps are rare — Apple’s App Store reviewers do their job well — sometimes malicious apps can slip through the cracks.
Luckily, Apple is taking a step toward fighting phishing in iOS and macOS. Here’s what they’re doing.
What is It?
In the latest beta versions of iOS 11.3 and macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, Apple is adding what it’s calling a “Privacy” icon. Basically, it’s a small icon of two silhouetted people shaking hands.
The page also explains that Apple believes “privacy is a fundamental human right,” hence the additional security feature.
How Does it Work?
The Privacy icon will appear when Apple, an Apple service, or an Apple feature is making an official request for your personal information, such as your Apple ID and password.
Of course, Apple notes that it won’t pop up with “every feature.” That likely means that you’ll only ever see the Privacy icon when using iCloud or logging into various Apple services with your credentials.
Apple has also increased the Privacy by creating an intermediary subsidiary to protect information. This should prove as a deterant for hackers trying to get into your Apple Pay cash transactions.
Where Will It Appear?
This is the part that’s not entirely clear at this point. Apple didn’t specify where the Privacy icon will show up on an iOS device. It could show up in a pop-up asking for login credentials (possibly next to the text field, for example).
But a likelier scenario is that it’ll appear in the top menu bar on an iPhone whenever iOS is making a request for sensitive info. If that’s the case, there would be no way of phishers simply adding the icon to a fraudulent text menu pop-up.
When Will it Be Out?
The Privacy icon feature is currently available in the first beta of iOS 11.3 and macOS High Sierra 10.13.4.
At this point, the macOS 10.13.4 and iOS 11.3 betas are only available to registered Apple developers. Of course, we can expect a public beta for those signed up to Apple’s Beta Software Program to be released soon.
As far as when the general public will receive the update, we’re not entirely sure. But Apple said it is rolling out the final public version of iOS 11.3 “this spring.”
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.