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Apple Brings Walkie Talkie Back To The Apple Watch After Security Flaw

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After weeks of beta testing, Apple has finally released iOS 12.4 to the public, bringing with it a number of tweaks. The iOS 12.4 update is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the update, go to Settings –> General –> Software Update. As with all iOS updates, iOS 12.4 is free to download, but it may take some time for iOS 12.4 to propagate to all iOS users.

According to Apple’s release notes, the update introduces a

iPhone migration

– Introduces the ability to wirelessly transfer data and migrate directly from an old iPhone to a new iPhone during setup.

Apple News

– Makes downloaded issues accessible in the My Magazines section, both offline and online

– Adds all publications in Apple News+, including newspapers, to the catalog at the top of the News+ feed

– Adds the ability to clear downloaded magazine issues by selecting History > Clear > Clear All.

Last but not least is a new security fix for the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch. Apple actually disabled the Walkie-Talkie feature when it discovered a vulnerability that allowed others to listen in on Walkie-Talkie conversations–Just a few weeks after it was disabled over a security vulnerability, Apple has brought the Walkie Talkie app back to the Apple Watch. The vulnerability in Walkie Talkie was discovered that could let users listen in on another person’s iPhone without their consent.

The company explained that the feature hadn’t been exploited but it nonetheless pulled Walkie Talkie so it could work on a fix, That fix is ready today in both iOS 12.4 and watchOS 5.3, which means the Walkie-Talkie app is once again available for use–When disabling the Walkie-Talkie app, Apple didn’t pull it off of Apple Watches, leaving the app intact but rendering it non-functional. Today’s software updates fix the vulnerability and bring the app back online.

“We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible.

“Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent. We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.

Apple was quick to take down the Walkie-Talkie app as it suffered from another eavesdropping bug recently that received major media attention. A serious Group FaceTime bug was discovered back in January, and when exploited, it allowed callers to hear a user’s audio even when the call had not been accepted–In that situation Apple did not remove the Group FaceTime feature until it had been publicized, despite the person who discovered the bug having submitted a report days before. Apple fixed the Group FaceTime bug after a week and a half, addressing it in iOS 12.1.4.

Now, it’s seems to have learned its lesson, handling the bug (reported on its vulnerability portal) promptly and taking action to mitigate it. If you’re not familiar, the Walkie Talkie app allows two users to send short push-to-talk chat messages to one another. It’s a nice way to reduce the complexity of using the Apple Watch as a full-featured communications tool, speeding up the process of sending messages, rather than using voice transcription.

The update is available now.

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