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Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have major security problems in iOS 11

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have major security problems in iOS 11
© Trong Nguyen | Dreamstime

When iOS 11 was released, one of the major changes was the redesigned Control Center with a taller interface and more functions crammed into a single page.

This is a welcome redesign since the two-page system on iOS 10 was a bit clunky. In iOS 11, having all the control toggles on one page means you can do things more efficiently without swiping.

However, we noticed one unannounced under-the-hood change that had us scratching our heads. It's a subtle change but it raises big security concerns.

Now, even a privacy watchdog group is pressuring Apple to fix the glaring security problem.

iOS 11 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles

As we reported earlier, in iOS 11's Control Center, quick toggling the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons off doesn't really turn the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios off.

Instead, they just disconnect your active Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections but the signals are still available.

For example, Location Services, Handoff, and Instant Hotspot will still be on even though your iOS gadget shows that it's in Airplane Mode.

New concerns from privacy groups

In a new blog post published earlier this month, internet privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized Apple yet again for the change.

The EFF first addresses the lack of visual cues with regards to this new iOS 11 behavior, which can lead to a loss of trust.

"When a phone is designed to behave in a way other than what the UI suggests, it results in both security and privacy problems," the EFF stated in the post. "A user has no visual or textual clues to understand the device's behavior, which can result in a loss of trust in operating system designers to faithfully communicate what’s going on.

"Since users rely on the operating system as the bedrock for most security and privacy decisions, no matter what app or connected device they may be using, this trust is fundamental."

The EFF also stated that Apple's functional decision can compromise user's security and this change would not be hard to fix.

"At a bare minimum, Apple should make the Control Center toggles last until the user flips them back on, rather than overriding the user's choice early the next morning," the EFF continued.

"It's simply a question of communicating better to users, and giving them control and clarity when they want their settings off—not 'off-ish.'"

Security Risks

While Apple may have its own valid reasons for making this change, most users are calling it "stupid" and "unclear."

Leaving the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios active all the time will not only drain your battery faster, it can be a huge security risk as well.

We always report about the dangers of leaving the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios on especially in public spaces due to multiple vulnerabilities, including the recently discovered Wi-Fi KRACK hack.

Like the EFF, we're hoping that Apple will reconsider this change since it can potentially put millions at risk every day.

Why the change?

According to Apple, this change was implemented to keep services like AirDrop, AirPlay, Handoff, and Instant Hotspot plus accessories like the Apple Pencil and the Apple Watch connected all the time.

Apparently, toggling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off in iOS 11's Control Center will only disconnect third-party accessories and Wi-Fi networks.

If they're toggled off, your iPad or iPhone will try and reconnect to paired devices at 5 a.m. each morning or when the device restarts or you manually toggle them on in the Control Center.

This can be a bit confusing and frankly, misleading since prior to iOS 11, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Control Center toggles actually turn their respective radios off.

To actually deactivate these radios in iOS 11, users will have to dig into Settings and turn them off.

  • To turn off Wi-Fi, go to Settings >> Wi-Fi and turn off Wi-Fi.
  • To turn off Bluetooth, go to Settings >> Bluetooth and turn off Bluetooth.
  • Toggle Airplane Mode to on.

Don't fall for this incredibly real-looking but fake malware pop-up message

There's another security threat that can affect iOS users and it comes in the form of fake pop-ups. Click here to read more about it and learn how to protect yourself.

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