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 / 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.” 

Security Stop Press : Apple Warns of Mercenary Spyware Attacks In 92 Countries

Apple has reported sending threat notifications to iPhone users in 92 countries, warning them that they may have been targeted by mercenary spyware attacks. These types of attacks use software designed to infiltrate and monitor computer systems or mobile devices and are typically “state-sponsored” and are used for intelligence gathering, surveillance of dissidents, journalist, and politicians, for corporate espionage, and more.

Apple reports sending these kinds of notifications multiple times a year and says it has notified users to such threats in over 150 countries since 2021. The notifications sent by Apple contain parts such as “Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-,” and “This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do.”

Apple relies on its own internal threat-intelligence information and investigations to detect these attacks and is keen to point out that mercenary spyware attacks such as those using Pegasus from the NSO Group, are still very rare.

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 : 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”.

An Apple Byte : Apple Fine and Sideloading

In two recent blows to Apple, it’s just been fined £1.5bn for breaking EU competition laws over music streaming, while its latest iPhone update means allowing developers to offer their own ‘app stores’.

The Fine 

Following a complaint by Swedish music streaming service Spotify, Apple has been fined £1.5bn by the European Commission for abusing its market position by preventing developers from telling users about alternative, cheaper music services outside the Apple app store (which is illegal under EU antitrust rules). However, it’s been noted that the EC found no concrete evidence of consumer harm and Apple has said it will appeal.

The Update 

In other bad (but expected) news for Apple, in compliance with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), its latest iOS 17.4 update allows developers to offer their own ‘app stores’ (also referred to as ‘sideloading’). This means that users can download new software without going through the official App Store, and developers such as Google can now offer their own app store, which offers their own content and their own restrictions. However, developers will still have to pay a fee to Apple for installs.

An Apple Byte : Stolen Device Protection Update Rolled Out

Apple iPhone users are being urged to use a new feature called ‘Stolen Device Protection’ which was rolled out in a recent update to iOS.

As the new feature’s name suggests, it can help prevent someone who has stolen your device and knows your passcode from making critical changes to your account or device. It means that certain actions will have additional security requirements when your iPhone is away from familiar locations, such as your home or workplace.

The feature protects by including factors like a security delay and the need to authenticate Face ID or Touch ID before certain actions can be taken on a device.

The opt-in Stolen Device Protection feature can be turned on in Settings but requires the use of two-factor authentication for your Apple ID and setting up or enabling the following on your iPhone: a device passcode; Face ID or Touch ID; Find My; and Significant Locations.