An Apple Byte : iPhone Bluetooth Stalking Warning

Apple says it has worked with Google to create an industry specification that can alert users across both iOS and Android if a Bluetooth tracking device is being used to track them (also known as Bluetooth Stalking).

The new capability, which is being implemented in Apple’s new iOS 17.5 (and on Android 6.0+ devices) will deliver an “[Item] Found Moving With You” alert on those devices if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is seen moving with them over time, regardless of the platform the device is paired with.

Apple says this will “help mitigate the misuse of devices designed to help keep track of belongings.” For example, if a user receives the alert on their iOS device, it means that someone else’s AirTag, Find My accessory, or other industry specification-compatible Bluetooth tracker is moving with them.

An Apple Byte : iPhone Users Get Google’s ‘Circle to Search’

iPhone users can now use a version of Google’s “Circle to Search” thanks to Google Lens and iOS Shortcuts.

The “Circle to Search” gesture, launched in January (which Google Pixel phone users may already be familiar with) is where users can circle, highlight, scribble or tap any part of an image or text on the screen that they want to use Google search find out more about.

Now, a new Google app shortcut means that iPhone users can use the Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro to quickly visually search anything on the screen via Google Lens. Although Google’s iOS app already offers a way to use Lens for visual search, this new shortcut makes it easier to start a search with just a simple gesture.

An Apple Byte : Apple’s $110 Billion US Stock BuyBack Is Biggest Ever

Apple Inc’s Board has just approved a $110 Billion Stock buyback which will be the biggest buyback in US history. Apple is already responsible for the top six of the 10 largest share-repurchase announcements ever made in the US, and this announcement beats its own previous record for the largest buyback value from 2018 when it authorised $100 billion in share repurchases.

Apple has seen a slowdown in sales in recent years but with its quarterly post-market results and sales exceeding expectations, its quarterly dividend increased (for the twelfth year in a row), and growth predicted, the buyback announcement added to the momentum as shares rose as much as 7.9 per cent in post-market trading.

It’s predicted that the move could add more than $190 billion in market value, thereby making investors see Apple’s as a value rather than a growth stock. Buybacks tend to happen when a company has significant cash reserves (as in the case of Apple) and are primarily aimed at returning value to a company’s shareholders.

An Apple Byte : Apple / OpenAI iPhone Talks Renewed

It’s been reported (Bloomberg) that Apple is (back) in discussions with OpenAI about potentially using OpenAI’s generative AI technology to power some new features being introduced in the iPhone later this year.

Although Apple is reported to be talking to OpenAI, it was also reported last month that Apple was talking to Googe about licensing its Google’s Gemini chatbot for new iPhone features.

It is therefore not yet clear whether Apple will decide to partner with OpenAI, Alphabet Inc (Google), or another AI provider for the AI features of its next iPhone operating system, iOS 18.

An Apple Byte : China Orders Removal Of Popular Messaging Apps From iPhone App Store

It’s been reported that the Chinese government has ordered Apple to remove popular messaging apps including Meta’s WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal from its iPhone app store in China, due to national security concerns.

Some reports indicate that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may not be happy that the apps are outside of their control and are pro-democracy media, plus contain political content (such as criticism of the Chinese president and government).

Also, this is likely to be part of the ongoing poor relations, trade wars, and tit-for-tat responses between China and the US. For example, the US is currently in the process of trying to ban the Chinese company Bytedance’s hugely popular TikTok app in the US due to the company’s alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party and, therefore, the possible threat to US national security.

An Apple Byte : Used iPhone Components To Be Allowed For iPhone Repairs

Apple has announced that beginning in the autumn with select iPhone models, customers and independent repair providers will be able to utilise used Apple components in the repair process.

Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, John Ternus, said: “With this latest expansion to our repair program, we’re excited to be adding even more choice and convenience for our customers, while helping to extend the life of our products and their parts.” 

Apple says that its teams have been working over the last two years to enable the reuse of parts such as biometric sensors used for Face ID or Touch ID, and that, beginning this autumn, “calibration for genuine Apple parts, new or used, will happen on-device after the part is installed.” 

An Apple Byte : Apple To Allow Retro Console Game Emulators On App Store Globally

As part of its compliance with EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules, Apple has announced a change in its App Store rules to allow emulators for retro console games globally. The change allows an option for downloading the titles, but Apple has warned the developers of such emulator apps that need to follow copyright rules.

Android users already enjoy access to these types of emulators and Apple’s move to allow them via an in-app purchase mechanism could provide another welcome revenue stream.

Following its hefty $1.9 billion fine by the EU earlier this month for restricting music-streaming app developers from sharing subscription options outside of Apple’s App Store, Apple has introduced new “Music Streaming Services Entitlements” for apps distributed in the EU. These are guidelines allowing some music streaming apps to include links, e.g. ‘buy buttons’ that go to external websites.

An Apple Byte : iPhone Users Targeted With Password Reset Scam

It’s been reported that some iPhone users have recently been targeted with an MFA bombing / multi-factor fatigue phishing attack.

The attack (which uses a bug in Apple’s password reset feature) bombards the user’s phone with password reset requests and ‘Allow’ or ‘Disallow’ options. If the user eventually clicks on ‘Allow’ in an attempt to stop the many prompts, they receive a call from scammers pretending to be Apple Support, asking the user to verify a one-time code in an attempt to gain access to the account and/or to sensitive user information.

So far, it’s understood that these attacks have been highly targeted at certain individuals and users should note that Apple Support will never call a user unless that user has specifically asked them to. It’s also been reported that turning on Apple Recovery Key for the account is a way to stop the multiple notifications generated by the scammers.

An Apple Byte : Serious Apple Chip Vulnerability Discovered

US researchers have reported discovering a hardware chip vulnerability inside Apple M1, M2, and M3 silicon chips. The unpatchable ‘GoFetch’ is a microarchitecture vulnerability and side-channel attack that reportedly affects all kinds of encryption algorithms, even the 2,048-bit keys that are hardened to protect against attacks from quantum computers.

This serious vulnerability renders the security effects of constant-time programming (a side-channel mitigation encryption algorithm) useless. This means that encryption software can be tricked by applications using GoFetch into putting sensitive data into the cache so it can be stolen.

Pending any fix advice from Apple, users are recommended to use the latest versions of software, and to perform updates regularly. Also, developers of cryptographic libraries should set the DOIT bit and DIT bit bits (disabling the DMP on some CPUs) and to use input blinding (cryptography). Users are also recommended to avoid hardware sharing to help maintain the security of cryptographic protocols.

An Apple Byte : Apple Pays Norfolk Council £385 Million

Following a class action lawsuit led by Norfolk County Council over the effect of an alleged cover-up by Apple’s boss about iPhone demand in China, Apple has agreed to pay £385m to settle the lawsuit.

The lawsuit related to comments by Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, to investors back in 2018 where he told them there was “sales pressure” in some countries but not in China, thereby indicating demand for iPhones there was normal. However, two months later (January 2019), Apple cited China-US tensions as a reason for downgrading its quarterly revenue forecast, which resulted in a sharp fall in Apple’s share price. The lawsuit, led by Norfolk County Council (and including a group of Apple investors) therefore alleged that that they had been falsely reassured by Mr Cook’s comments, lost money because of this, and Mr Cook had been covering up the company’s knowledge about lower demand for iPhones in China.

Following Apple’s agreement to settle the lawsuit, a statement by the Norfolk Pension Fund said it was “very proud of this recovery for investors” and that it’s willing to take “decisive action to recover losses when our participants’ investments are harmed by fraud”.