iOS 11 Control Centre doesn’t actually turn Bluetooth off, but here’s how

21 Sep 2017

Still from ‘iPad – How to copy and paste across devices with iOS 11 – Apple’. Image: Apple/YouTube

One of the updates to Apple’s latest operating system isn’t what it seems, and it could prove to be a potential security risk.

The launch of iOS 11 was described as a move to bolster the security of Apple devices, but one of its shiniest new features might be leaving many vulnerable to wireless attacks.

The concern surrounds iOS 11’s Control Centre interface, which lets users swipe up to access a number of the device’s features, including turning on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile data and aeroplane mode.

However, according to Motherboard, the buttons do not alert you to the fact that these switches don’t actually turn anything off.

So, for example, a person who deactivates the Wi-Fi switch will disconnect from their current connection but, in the background, it will still be running to allow for location services to continue scanning.

The same goes for Bluetooth connections and, based on the recent discovery of an Android vulnerability called BlueBorne (which allows hackers to access a targeted device through open connections), this could be a major concern.

Go a little deeper

Apple’s reasoning for this, according to its own documentation, is to allow its multitude of different devices – such as the Apple Watch or AirPod wireless headphones – to remain connected, preventing the addition of new ones.

The connection will be reactivated at 5am the next morning or if you “walk or drive to a new location”, unless you have aeroplane mode activated.

The only way to turn services completely off, it added, was to manually go into Settings and switch them off.

This lack of clarity has not gone down well with security researchers, including Collin Mulliner, who has called Apple’s decision to include this as default as “stupid”, adding that it was “not clear for the user”.

As another security researcher pointed out, however, this issue has not simply been an Apple problem, as Android has had its own issues of always-on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic