NEW YORK (AP) — Apple regularly releases updates to the software that powers the iPhone, and sometimes it’s okay to dawdle when it comes to installing it. But that’s not the case with its latest — an upgrade Apple released Wednesday to patch a security flaw that allowed hackers to take control of iPhones and several other popular Apple products.
Security experts warn that anyone with an iPhone should install the update as soon as possible to protect all the personal information many people store on a device that has become an appendage for many.
Without the latest update, a hacker could take full control of Apple devices, allowing the intruder to impersonate the real owner and run any software in their name.
The company also released solutions to block the security threat on iPads and Macs. The flaw may have already been “actively exploited,” according to the company, which had to fix other security vulnerabilities earlier this year.
HOW CAN I SOLVE THIS?
The good news? There is a simple solution: you should be able to find it easily. Start with the Settings app, the one with an icon with what looks like gears in an old watch. Go to the ‘General’ section and then to ‘Software Update’. The page you see will provide simple instructions or, if your device has already been updated, a message about it.
According to security experts, the entire process usually only takes a few minutes. .
WHY IS UPDATING YOUR APPLE DEVICE SO URGENT?
Commercial spyware companies such as Israel’s NSO Group are known for identifying and exploiting such vulnerabilities, exploiting them into malware that covertly infect targets’ smartphones, siphon their content and monitor the targets in real time. It’s a risk best avoided.
WHY IS MY APPLE DEVICE NOT DOING THIS FOR ME?
Apple devices are set to automatic updates by default, but they can take a while to get there. Updates also usually don’t activate unless they can and usually not unless the iPhone is plugged into a power outlet at the time. It’s faster to check for the latest updates and do it manually.
DOES THIS MEAN APPLE IS NOT DOING A GOOD JOB PROTECTING ITS USERS?
No. The reality is that hackers are constantly looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to phones, tablets, computers and other internet-connected devices for a wide variety of malicious and illegal purposes. Apple’s products are usually a prime target because they are popular, which makes them an attractive target.
“Apple is no different from other tech companies because they are constantly dealing with vulnerabilities,” said Jamie Collier, senior threat intelligence advisor for cybersecurity firm Mandiant and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies. “This is really a function of them innovating. They’re constantly developing, they’re constantly improving their services, improving their technology, improving their software. That means they’re constantly rolling out new things.”
WHAT APPLE DEVICES ARE AFFECTED?
Affected devices are the iPhone6S and later models; several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models, and the iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running macOS Monterey. The error also affects some iPod models.
HOW DO I UPDATE IPADS AND MACS?
You can update your iPad using the same process described above: go to ‘Settings’, click ‘General’ and click ‘Software Update’. On your Mac, go to System Preferences, then Software Update.
WHAT IS THE RISK THAT MY PHONE HAS BEEN COMPROMISED?
Unless you are a journalist, political dissident or human rights activist, the chances are extremely slim. The types of spyware created to exploit vulnerabilities of this type are expensive and typically reserved for targeted hacking.
“If you keep the systems up to date, you’ll be fine,” Collier said. “Usually when vulnerabilities in, say, phones and iPhones are exploited, they tend to be quite targeted, quite targeted at a small subset of individuals. So it’s unlikely at this stage that we’re seeing anything that’s really widespread.”