iOS Update

iOS Update: a reader asks…


I have an iPhone Xs and just saw the latest update pop up. Should I install this update or wait?

In this case, you should install the update as soon as practical. iOS 12.1.4 fixes a vulnerability that made the news over the last 10 days or so. A youth figured out there was a serous problem with the Group Facetime feature Apple had recently released. He was able to demonstrate that he could start a Facetime session and quit it, yet still be able to hear (and see) the other person. Without that other person knowing they were being spied upon!

Once Apple managed to take him seriously and acknowledge the problem, they turned off Group Facetime and promised a fix would be forthcoming. It took them more than a week to come up with a fix, and we don’t know for sure if it really fixes the problem (and doesn’t break something else). But this vulnerability is a bit too glaring for most folks to wait. Plus, Google researchers (an anonymous researcher in the Google threat Analysis Group and two named researchers from Google Project Zero) verified that the 12.1.4 update fixes two other ‘zero-day’ vulnerabilities. Both those vulnerabilities had been verified as being actively exploited ‘in the wild’. Based on this information, my advice is to install the update immediately.

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I did and don’t see any negative effects on my iPhone. But of course, there are no guarantees. I would expect that there might be a few folks out there who might have a problem, but I think the risk is worth taking. If you are one of the unlucky ones to have a problem with iOS 12.1.4, please shout long and hard at Apple – the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

In general, my advice for all consumer technology is to install updates as soon as practical once they’re released to the public. These days the security risks are greater than the risk to your hardware or service. Every once in awhile an update gets released and causes a lot of problems (looking at you Microsoft and your October 2018 Windows 10 Update snafu). The result is that the software developer hears about it and fixes the problem.

Would that us poor consumers didn’t have to test out these updates, but unfortunately that’s the world we live in these days.

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