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Apple advertises the privacy features of the iPhone 13, but doesn’t address spyware concerns




James Martin / CNET This story is part of an Apple Event that fully covers the latest news from Apple.

According to Apple, the iPhone 13 has “built-in” privacy. It pointed out the processing of voice commands and features on the device to block third-party tracking as evidence of its commitment.

These features will be available as part of iOS 15, which will be released on Monday. This means that most iPhone users will benefit from the upgrade, not just those who buy a fashionable new smartphone.

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For example, the new operating system provides voice recognition on Siri devices. That is, Siri’s voice request is not left for remote processing of the iPhone. Intelligent anti-tracking features block trackers from profiling using IP addresses. Email privacy protection also hides your IP address and prevents senders from knowing about your email activity, the company said.

Playing now: Look at this: Apple reveals iPhone 13


However, Tuesday’s flagship device rollout skipped two key issues that cast doubt on Apple’s privacy practices. The company does not mention urgent updates to operating systems that have closed exploits that are already in use to target activists and journalists. Apple also circumvented its own plan to spy on users by searching for images of child exploitation on iPhones, Macs, and iPads.

On Monday, Apple released security updates for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac computers. This closes a vulnerability reportedly exploited by intrusive spyware built by Israeli security company NSO Group.

The fix is ​​based on a study conducted by The Citizen Lab, a public interest cybersecurity group that discovered that Saudi activist phones were infected with NSO Group’s most famous product, Pegasus. According to Citizen Lab, a zero-day, zero-click exploit for iMessage called ForcedEntry targeted Apple’s image rendering library and worked well for its iPhones, laptops, and Apple Watch.

Apple said it was doubtful that the exploit would pose a danger to most users, noting that the attack had to be highly sophisticated and would cost millions of dollars to develop. As a result, cybercriminals will probably save it for use against certain people.

Nonetheless, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab has expressed concern about the potential use of this exploit. NSO has determined that it has exploited this vulnerability to remotely infect the device with Pegasus spyware, adding that the exploit is likely to have been in use since February. “We encourage readers to update all Apple devices immediately,” the group said.

Apart from this, Apple is facing a blowback of an currently postponed feature set designed to detect if people are storing images and videos that exploit their children on their devices. These features were originally intended to be included in iOS 15, iPad OS 15, WatchOS 8, and MacOS Monterey.

This feature converts an image into a unique code bit called a hash. The hash is then collated with a database of known child exploitation content maintained by the National Missing and Exploited Children’s Center. If a certain number of matches are found, Apple will be alerted and can choose to investigate.

Security experts and digital privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) have condemned the plan and protested in front of about 12 Apple stores on Monday prior to the launch of the iPhone. Was done.

In addition to corporate surveillance, the group states that this feature will be used by authoritarian regimes to create a backdoor to potentially life-threatening consumer devices.

Apple hasn’t said when the feature will be released. On September 3rd, we postponed the deployment to make improvements and address privacy concerns.

Apple’s fall launch, again virtualized for the COVID-19 pandemic this year, tends to be the company’s most important this year. It was then that the company announced the new iPhone, which accounts for about half of its revenue. The iPhone 12, which has been in the lineup since 2020, offers 5G and has undergone the first major design renewal since the iPhone X in 2017.

Ian Sherr of CNET contributed to this report.




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