Apple iOS 10.3.3 has problems but what appears to be an otherwise dull update on the surface, actually hides a crucial improvement (but bad news for older iPhones) if you delve deeper...
‘Great Secret Features’ and ‘Nasty Surprises’ are my regular columns investigating operating system updates for the best features / biggest problems hidden behind the headlines.
Buried deep in Apple’s official iOS 10.3.3 security notes is something startling: iPhones have been vulnerable to hackers taking complete control of them simply via WiFi. The hack, dubbed ‘Broadpwn’, stems from Broadcom WiFi chips (model numbers BCM4354, 4358 and 4359) built into the vast majority of iPhones (Intel chips exist in some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus variants).
Of course the news also opens up questions about older iPhones.
The iPhone 4S (thought to be BCM4330), iPhone 4 (BCM4329) and iPhone 3GS (BCM4325) all use Broadcom chips but none will get the iOS 10.3.3 fix which may leave them permanently vulnerable. I’ve reached out to Apple to clarify if it plans to issue emergency patches for these models.
But this isn’t only an Apple issue.
The Broadcom BCM4354, 4358 and 4359 chips are also used by most major Android smartphone makers including HTC, Google, LG and Samsung. This makes it a global smartphone problem.
In fact the problem is worse now Apple has publicly confirmed the vulnerability which alerts hackers to all the other models. Google did patch the Broadpwn attack in an official security release for Android and its Pixel phones, but it is now up to Android handset makers to apply this in a timely fashion - which doesn’t always happen.