Apple issues surprise iOS 14.8 update to fix severe security threats

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Surprise! Apple releases iOS 14.8
Just when you thought Apple’s next software release would be iOS 15…
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Apple rushed out updates for iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches on Monday to patch a pair of critical security vulnerabilities. The updates protect users from arbitrary code execution that can be triggered by maliciously crafted PDFs or web content, Apple said in its release notes.

In both cases, “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited,” the company said.

The updates include iOS 14.8, iPadOS 14.8, macOS Big Sur 11.6, watchOS 7.6.2 and security patches for Safari and macOS Catalina.

Apple forges ahead with testing iOS 14.7 and macOS 11.5

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Apple moves ahead with testing iOS 14.7 and macOS 11.5
Testing is on for iOS 14.7 beta 1, along with upcoming versions of macOS, iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple hasn’t yet given regular users access to the most recent iPhone and Mac updates but is already testing their replacements. The first betas of iOS 14.7 and macOS 11.5 were seeded to developers on Wednesday.

The same goes for iPadOS 14.7, watchOS 7.6 and tvOS 14.7.

iOS 14.6, watchOS 7.5, macOS 11.4 take a huge step toward release [Updated]

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iOS 14.6 and watchOS 7.5 take a huge step toward release
The first release candidates for iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 are out. The same goes for watchOS 7.5 RC and tvOS 14.6 RC.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple seeded to developers the first release candidates for iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 on Monday. These are only small updates for these operating systems, and their timing may be controlled by the 2021 iPad Pro, which will reach customers on Friday.

Not to be left out, devs also got access to the initial release candidates for watchOS 7.5 and tvOS 14.6 on Monday.

Update: Shortly thereafter, Apple also seeded macOS Big Sur 11.4 RC to developers.

Apple hastily adds security patches in macOS Big Sur 11.3.1, watchOS 7.4.1

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Apple Security Jacket
There are critical security patches for Mac and Apple Watch.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Mac users can now download macOS Big Sur 11.3.1, a security-themed update to the version released a week ago. It closes security holes that Apple knows were exploited by hackers.

Monday was a busy day for updates. Apple also released watchOS 7.4.1 with one of the same security fixes. And it introduced iOS 14.5.1 and iPadOS 14.5.1 to take care of an App Tracking Transparency bug, and fix security bugs.

Why Apple Watch’s iPhone unlock changes your freakin’ face-mask life

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Why Apple Watch’s iPhone unlock will change your freakin’ life
Being able to to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask is the best reason yet to get an Apple Watch.
Photo: Ivan Samkov/Pexels CC

iOS 14.5 is the best update of the pandemic era because it works with your Apple Watch to remove the hassle of unlocking your iPhone while wearing a face mask. You don’t have to type in your passcode every single damn time. The phone just unlocks. Like it’s supposed to.

But the trick does require an Apple Watch. If you’ve been on the bubble about getting one, this feature should go a long way toward convincing you. It serves as yet another elegant example of how Apple’s ecosystem offers users simple solutions to modern life’s annoyances.

Fix dangerous Safari bug with these updates for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch

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iOS 14.4.2 iPadOS 14.4.2 and watchOS 7.3.3 are all avaiulable now.
iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch users should install new system software updates immediately.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Apple has a fix for a serious bug in the mobile version of its Safari web browser. Hackers have reportedly already used it, which makes a high-priority of installing iOS 14.4.2, iPadOS 14.4.2 and watchOS 7.3.3. All three hit Apple servers Friday morning.

iOS 14.4.1 squashes dangerous Safari security bug

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iOS 14.4.1 and iPadOS 14.4.1 and watchOS 7.3.2
Apple recommends you install iOS 14.4.1 on your iPhone to fix a security problem. And there are iPad and Apple Watch equivalents.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

iPhone users should install iOS 14.4.1, which Apple released Monday entirely to kill a bug in the Safari web browser. Obviously, Apple considers it a significant enough threat to devote an entire software update to justify it.

There’s also an equivalent iPadOS 14.4.1 version. Plus, the newly released watchOS 7.3.2 deals with the same security problem, as does macOS Big Sur 11.2.3.

Apple Watch ECG on its way to Australia after government approval

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Apple Watch ECG
One of Apple Watch's best features is expanding its reach.
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch’s terrific ECG feature is one step closer to going live in Australia after receiving government approval. It comes just a month after Australia approved the device’s irregular heart rhythm notifications.

It’s not yet clear when Apple will make the feature available to Apple Watch owners.

watchOS 7.3.1 repairs serious Apple Watch charging problem

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watchOS 7.3.1 squashes a bug inApple Watch’s Power Reserve feature.
Power Reserve reduces drain on your Apple Watch’s battery. But there’s a bug.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To prevent your Apple Watch Series 5 or Apple Watch SE from refusing to charge when it’s in Power Reserve, you need watchOS 7.3.1. Apple rushed this update out on Monday specifically to fix this bug.

Any Apple Watch hit with this bug drains until it’s dead, and can‘t be recharged. But Apple will repair the affected devices at no cost.