The iOS 14.4 update has been released and we discovered a secret feature that blocks messages from hackers. This update initially did not seem very important, as it only included some improvements on the camera and some bug fixes.
However, just a few hours later the real importance of this update was revealed, Apple had fixed three bugs in iOS that put users at risk.
Secret iOS feature protects you from hackers
It is a new feature, which has not been officially announced by Apple but is already available on all updated devices to block malicious messages; especially those that include codes that allow hacking.
This secret feature is a sandbox, a safe space in which programs can run without affecting the operating system. The idea is that the code runs in a controlled environment so if it tries something problematic, it cannot access the user’s data or change the device’s configuration.
Many systems and applications have something similar to a sandbox to protect their code. The most famous case is perhaps Google Chrome, which ten years ago introduced a feature that isolates each tab separately to prevent them from accessing each other’s data.
Sandbox for messages
Apple’s implementation is responsible for obtaining new messages that arrive at the iMessage app and unpacking their content in an environment isolated from the rest.
This way, if the message has a malicious code, it will not be able to do anything, neither obtain our data nor interact with the operating system. For practical purposes, this makes the attack completely harmless, and the user will be completely protected.
Everything suggests that Apple has implemented this functionality in response to the emergence of new types of attacks based on sending malicious messages. Specifically, at the end of 2020, it was discovered that a flaw in the system allowed spying on journalists just by sending a text message.
It is unclear why Apple has not made this public, considering that it is a clear security improvement. It may be to avoid drawing attention to the fact that phones still running iOS 13 or lower are still vulnerable.