NEW YORK (AP) — Apple regularly releases updates to the software that powers the iPhone, and sometimes it’s normal to lag when it comes to installing them. But that’s not the case with its latest update – an update Apple released on Wednesday to close a security hole that could allow 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 like another appendage to many.
Without the latest update, a hacker could take full control of Apple devices, allowing the intruder to impersonate the true owner and run any software on their behalf.
The company also released patches to block the security threat on iPads and Macs. The flaw may have already been “actively exploited”, according to the company, which had to address other security issues earlier this year.
HOW CAN I FIX 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 that looks like gears in an old watch. Go to the “General” section, then “Software Update”. The page you see will offer simple instructions or, if your device has already been updated, a message to that effect.
The whole process usually only takes a few minutes, according to security experts. .
WHY IS UPDATING YOUR APPLE DEVICE SO URGENT?
Commercial spyware companies such as Israel’s NSO Group are known to identify and exploit these flaws, exploiting them in malware that surreptitiously infects targets’ smartphones, siphons their content, and monitors targets in real time. This is a risk best avoided.
WHY WON’T MY APPLE DEVICE DO THIS FOR ME?
Apple devices are set up for automatic updates by default, but it can take a while for them to get started. Updates usually won’t trigger unless it can be done, and it usually won’t happen 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 TO PROTECT 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 malicious and illegal purposes. Apple products tend to be a prime target because they are popular, which makes them an attractive target.
“Apple is no different from any tech company in that it constantly faces vulnerabilities,” said Jamie Collier, senior threat intelligence advisor for cybersecurity firm Mandiant and a research associate at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies. “It’s really a function of the fact that they’re innovating. They are constantly developing, they are constantly improving their services, improving their technology, improving their software. This means that they are constantly rolling out new stuff.
WHICH APPLE DEVICES ARE AFFECTED?
Affected devices include iPhone6S and later; multiple iPad models, including 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models, and iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running macOS Monterey. The flaw also affects some iPod models.
HOW TO 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 the Mac, go to “System Preferences”, then “Software Update”.
WHAT IS THE RISK OF MY PHONE BEING 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 generally reserved for targeted hacking.
“If you keep the systems up to date, you’ll be fine,” Collier said. “Typically when vulnerabilities in, say, phones and iPhones are exploited, they tend to be quite targeted, quite concentrated on a small subset of individuals. So it’s unlikely we’ll see anything is really prevalent at this point.
Liedtke reported from Berkeley, Calif. AP Business Writer Frank Bajak in Boston and AP Videographer Terry Chea contributed to this report.
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