A few hours ago, Apple released its latest operating system, iOS 14.4. In addition to minor fixes, the update primarily patches three security vulnerabilities that "may have been actively exploited" according to the iPhone manufacturer.
As usual, the latest iOS and iPadOS released for iPhone and iPad includes a number of security-related updates. While that's not surprising in itself, Apple's notes on the update, however, do talk about three vulnerabilities patched in version 14.4 that may have been actively exploited by attackers.
Exact details of the vulnerabilities unknown so far
Specific clues about the issues, however, are unknown so far. For example, Apple has granted anonymity to the reporter who alerted the company to the vulnerabilities. All that is known is that two of the vulnerabilities were in WebKit, the "heart" of Apple's browser. The third was found in the kernel of iOS.
TechCrunch speculates that attackers may have combined these issues to gain access to the devices. Browser vulnerabilities, for example, lend themselves well to gaining deeper access to the system through other linked issues. However, it is not known if this is a broad or targeted attack on individual users or groups. So, it is recommended to install the update promptly on Apple's smartphones and tablets. Apple further writes that more details should follow soon.
iOS 14.4: New features for iPhone and iPad
Among the new features of iOS 14.4 is the ability to assign Bluetooth devices to individual categories. These include car stereo, headphones, hearing aids, speakers and "other". Through this assignment, Apples wants to fix the problems with the automatic volume adjustment.
Furthermore, the camera is now able to recognize smaller QR codes. Speaking of the camera: If the system detects a repair where no original part was used, owners of an iPhone 12 will receive a corresponding notification. However, Apple will not restrict the function of the camera.
Bug fixes in iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4
Apple cites the following issues that have been fixed in iOS 14.4:
- Image artefacts could appear in HDR photos taken with iPhone 12 Pro
- Fitness widget may not display updated Activity data
- Typing may be delayed and word suggestions may not appear in the keyboard
- The keyboard may not come up in the correct language in Messages
- Audio stories from the News app in CarPlay may not resume after being paused for spoken directions or Siri
- Enabling Switch Control in Accessibility may prevent phone calls from being answered from the Lock Screen
HomePod mini: Apple activates the U1 chip
HomePod mini owners can also enjoy some minor news in a software update. For example, the iPhone and HomePod mini now work better together when they get close, thanks to the U1 chip. This chip for Ultra Wideband, or UWB, has been present in Apple's smartphones since the iPhone 11.
On the iPhone, a small notification appears when you get closer, indicating the nearby HomePod mini. The smartphone also vibrates slightly as you approach. If you hold the iPhone close enough to the HomePod, the playback controls automatically appear on the iPhone. Music that's playing can also be transferred to the small HomePod this way. This proximity-based feature is only available on the HomePod mini, as the regular HomePod doesn't have an U1 chip.
In addition to iOS 14.4, iPadOS 14.4 and the HomePod update, watchOS 7.3 and tvOS 4.4 are also available now.