Apple is launching a new security feature called ‘Lockdown Mode’ this autumn to protect iPhone, iPad and Mac users from spyware cyber-attacks.

Apple says that the “ground-breaking capability” is designed primarily to help activists, journalists, politicians and other high-risk users who are regularly targeted by sophisticated digital threats.

It comes after the tech giant was criticised by privacy experts for its failure to protect users targeted by NSO Group.

The Israeli spyware group allegedly used its Pegasus software to extract personal information including messages, emails and photos from both iOS and Android smartphones.

Apple is suing NSO Group for the breach and has already released a software update to plug the security vulnerability that was exploited by Pegasus.

The new Lockdown Mode takes things a step further by providing users with a higher level of protection.

The mode will disable messages, block calls, prevent web browsing technology such as JavaScript from functioning properly, and disable wired connections to computers.

While the feature will be available for everyone, Apple has recommended its use mainly for those at risk of “mercenary spyware attacks”.

Apple announced an increase in the pay rate threshold for “ethical” hackers exposing security flaws in Lockdown Mode to $2m.

They will also donate $10m to companies that work to expose the misuse of spyware.

Ford Foundation director Lori McGlinchey said: “The global spyware trade targets human rights defenders, journalists, and dissidents, and facilitates violence, reinforces authoritarianism, and supports political repression.”

Lockdown Mode is set to be added to Apple’s next operating systems on desktop, tablets and mobile, which will launch later this year.