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Apple Patches 42 Security Flaws in Latest iOS Refresh

Apple has released a major point-update to its flagship iOS mobile operating system, beefing up app privacy protections and patching at least 42 security defects that expose users to malicious hacker attacks.

The new iOS 15.2 makeover from Cupertino documents security vulnerabilities in multiple components, some serious enough to lead to code execution attacks if iPhone or iPad users simply open image or audio files.

According to an Apple advisory released Monday, 24 of the 42 documented CVEs could lead to arbitrary code execution attacks.  The majority are listed as memory corruption, buffer overflows and use-after-free bugs, another confirmation that memory safety issues continue to haunt code shipped in Apple’s wildly popular products.

The code execution issues were confirmed in the following components:  ColorSync, CoreAudio, ImageIO, Model I/O and WebKit.

The WebKit browser engine was among the most vulnerable components with Apple patching at least 12 memory safety issues that could lead to hacking attacks via booby-trapped web content.

[ READ: Apple Adds 'BlastDoor' to Secure iPhones From Zero-Click Attacks ]

The iOS 15.2 advisory makes no mention in-the-wild zero-day exploitation of any of the listed CVE entries.  Apple’s hardware products have been a major target for high-end malware attacks with threat hunters documenting at least 17 zero-day attacks hitting macOS or iOS-powered devices.   The majority of these zero-days have been found in iOS and iPadOS devices.

In addition to the security patches, Apple also announced privacy-related enhancements to the mobile OS, noting that ‘App Privacy Report’ in Settings will provide visibility into how often apps have accessed a user’s location, photos, camera, microphone, contacts and more during the last seven days, as well as the app’s network activity.

The iOS refresh also adds a communication safety setting that gives parents the ability to enable warnings for children when they receive or send photos that contain nudity.

[ READ: Apple Sues NSO Group Over Pegasus iOS Exploitation ]

The new security-themed makeover comes less than a month after Apple filed a lawsuit against Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group over a series of iOS malware implantation attacks that made headlines around the world.

The lawsuit, filed in Northern California, seeks to hold NSO Group accountable for hacking into Apple’s iOS mobile platform with so-called zero-click exploits to spy on researchers, journalists, activists, dissidents, academics, and government officials.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also announced it would contribute $10 million to researchers and academic outfits exposing cyber-surveillance abuses.

“To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices,” Apple said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit filing.

Apple accused NSO Group of creating “sophisticated, state-sponsored surveillance technology that allows its highly targeted spyware to surveil its victims.” 

Related: Apple Slaps Lawsuit on NSO Group Over Pegasus iOS Exploitation

Related: Apple Adds 'BlastDoor' to Secure iPhones From Zero-Click Attacks

Related: Apple Ships Urgent Patch for FORCEDENTRY Zero-Days

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. He is a journalist and cybersecurity strategist with more than 20 years experience covering IT security and technology trends. Ryan has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and Kaspersky GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's career as a journalist includes bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.