Apple’s first software update of 2019 didn’t introduce any flashy new features, but what it lacked in style it made up for in substance. On Tuesday, iOS 12.1.3 shipped exclusively to iPhones, and along with the typical tweaks also managed to address some serious vulnerabilities.
The patch is Apple’s fifth update to the iOS 12 operating system that was released last September and introduced capabilities like Screen Time, Group FaceTime, and stacked notifications. iOS 12.1.3 didn’t include any major improvements to these features but it did address a plethora of security issues, some of which could have let malware run rampant on iPhones.
iOS 12 Security Issues
These fixes initially flew under the radar, as Apple publishes its security updates on a separate page from user-facing iOS changes. The most recent post revealed 23 total weaknesses, six of which were said to be issues stemming from the operating system’s kernel, which is a fundamental layer of iOS.
The most disconcerting? One of the bugs Apple addressed — which affected iPhone 5s and later — reads “A malicious application may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges.” In other words, a malware could have run pretty much any kind of program as long as it infiltrated this so-called bedrock of iOS.
OS kernels communicate with hardware and manage how a device dedicates RAM and CPU resources. It’s like the conductor of an orchestra that lets all of an iPhone’s components work together seamlessly. When you turn on your iPhone, its kernel is the first thing that activates. Malware with this much access could render your phone useless or turn other iPhone apps like, say, the Camera on without you’re knowing.
This is where it gets kind of awkward, because it also turns out that the credit for discovering these bugs to Google’s own researchers, who reported 10 of the recently-patched bugs.
Other Minor Changes
Apple also provided a list user-facing bug fixes. The most notable one was a glitch that occured when users browsed the “Details” of an open iMessage conversation.
Normally the Details menu complies a list of pictures and videos that have been exchanged, but they were appearing as blank files for some users. That along with five other minor issues have been fixed.
- Fixes an issue in Messages that could impact scrolling through photos in the Details view.
- Addresses an issue where photos could have striped artifacts after being sent from the Share Sheet.
- Fixes an issue that may cause audio distortion when using external audio input devices on iPad Pro (2018).
- Resolves an issue that could cause certain CarPlay systems to disconnect from iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max.
- Fixes an issue that could cause HomePod to restart.
- Addresses an issue that could cause Siri to stop listening.
How to Update Your iOS Software
Users can either update wirelessly or plug their iPhone into their laptop to update with iTunes. Before running an update, it’s always important to start by making sure you have a backup of your pervious OS saved, just in case anything goes wrong.
To update without a laptop, open Settings, tap General, and then Software Update. You should see a red number “1” notifying you that there’s an update available. Follow the prompts to download and install the software. And while you’re at it, you can also set your updates to download automatically by toggling on “Automatic Updates” if you don’t feel running through all these tedious steps every few months.
If you’d rather use your laptop, then make sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed and plug in your iPhone. When you open your device summary it should let you know that iOS 12.1.3 is available to install. Then unlock your phone and your phone will reboot in a few minutes.