En español | Even though new operating system software for the iPhone and iPad becomes available as free downloads on Sept. 20, owners of these Apple products should not wait for the new iOS 15 because of a serious security problem, the company said this week.
The emergency updates are needed to patch a security rupture that could infect their gear with invasive spyware known as Pegasus. Apple issued similar security patches for Mac computers and the Apple Watch that also should be installed immediately.
The urgent fixes for the iPhone and iPad are designated as iOS version 14.8 and iPad OS 14.8. Software updates for the Mac and watch go by MacOS 11.6 and WatchOS 7.6.2 and apply to individual and business devices.
Watchdog group finds the flaw
The privacy vulnerability came to light after researchers at University of Toronto-based security watchdog Citizen Lab discovered that Pegasus could exploit iPhones through its iMessage messaging software. Such a “zero-click” attack meant the spyware could control the camera and microphone, text and do other things on your phone without your knowledge.
Apple owned up to the problem
“After identifying the vulnerability used by this exploit for iMessage, Apple rapidly developed and deployed a fix in iOS 14.8 to protect our users,” Ivan Krstić, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said in a statement. “We’d like to commend Citizen Lab for successfully completing the very difficult work of obtaining a sample of this exploit so we could develop this fix quickly.
"Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals," Krstić said. "While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”
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How to update your devices
On an iPhone or iPad, tap on Settings | General | Software Update. You should see the available update listed. Tap Download and Install. Type your passcode if prompted. The installation could take 15 to 30 minutes or even longer. Make sure your device has sufficient power or is plugged in.
On a Mac computer, start by clicking on the Apple logo in the upper left corner of the screen, and then click on Systems Preferences in the menu that appears. Click on Software Update to proceed.
On an Apple Watch, make sure that your iPhone has the latest version of iOS and that the watch is at least 50 percent charged.
- Connect your phone to Wi-Fi and launch the Apple Watch app on the phone.
- Tap General | Software Update | Download and Install.
- Enter your phone passcode when requested and agree to the terms and conditions.
- Place the watch on its charger and keep the phone close by so they are in range. Tap Proceed on the watch and enter your passcode on the watch. The installation may take a while.
Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics.
He previously worked for USA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and Fortune and is the author of Macs for Dummies and the coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.