Technology

What's Up With Apple: No Button iPhone, New Spyware Hack and More

The iPhone’s physical on/off button could be headed for the ash heap of history. At least, that’s the latest rumor as the expected announcement of new products from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) gets closer. No one’s sure how much closer because Apple hasn’t specified a date yet.

According to CNET, the iPhone 13 (that’s the one everyone expects to be announced next month) could be buttonless. No on/off or volume controls to push. Instead, Apple could use something called capacitive sensing input devices, “‘invisible backlit holes’ that appear when touched and disappear when not in use.”

Apple filed a patent application for just such technology in December of last year. That seems a bit quick to get a product using the technology to market, but, as Apple points out in its patent filing, the touch screen of the iPhone has used this capacitive sensing since the first iPhone was produced. The filing also describes how the technology would work on a laptop and even a watch.

The next iPhone (or the one after that) could ditch the Lightning connector as well and put all Apple’s chips behind a phone that is charged wirelessly and has no ports (holes) at all.

Internet watchdog group Citizen Lab has uncovered evidence of another attack on activists’ iPhones by the Pegasus spyware developed by Israel’s NSO group. Citizen Lab examined nine Bahraini activists’ iPhones and found evidence that the phones had been hacked using a “zero-click” attack. Such an attack does not require any user interaction to infect the device with spyware.

According to TechCrunch, “the hacks also circumvent a new software security feature built into all versions of iOS 14, dubbed BlastDoor, which is supposed to prevent these kinds of device hacks by filtering malicious data sent over iMessage.” Citizen Lab told TechCrunch that the Toronto-based group had notified Apple of the attack.

In response to a query from TechCrunch, Apple “would not explicitly say if it had found and fixed the vulnerability that NSO is exploiting.” Apple re-issued a boilerplate statement:

Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, and Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy, are headed to the White House for a meeting with President Biden to talk about how private companies are working to defeat the surge in ransomware and other online attacks against Americans.

According to a Bloomberg report, the three CEOs plan to attend a Wednesday afternoon meeting to which chief executives of Google, IBM and JPMorgan, among others, also have been invited.