Windows 11’s Phone Link for iOS reportedly being used to spy on iPhone owners

Windows 11 has just introduced Phone Link support for iOS, which has now rolled out to everyone – but we’re hearing a warning that iPhone owners could be spied upon by somebody leveraging a flaw allowing for misuse of the app.

Phone Link has been around for Android for ages, and allows messages, notifications, and much more to be piped through to a Windows 11 PC, so you can deal with them there on the desktop without even picking up your smartphone.

So, its introduction to iOS is a definite boon for iPhone users – even if it’s a more limited set of features than Android – but the problem is that cyber-stalkers could abuse the functionality due to the way Phone Link has been implemented for Apple handsets.

Certo Software, a mobile security outfit, reports that several of its users have said they’ve been spied upon using Phone Link for iOS.

How does this work? Certo explains (via Apple Insider) the process in a news post, though the key thing to note is that to compromise an individual, the cyber-stalker needs physical access to the victim’s iPhone.

If the attacker can get that – and knows the passcode for the device – it’s an easy enough matter to set up Phone Link on their own Windows PC. Certo doesn’t detail the exact steps, so as not to give would-be abusers that information, but observes that it involves scanning a QR code on the PC monitor with the victim’s iPhone in order to setup a Bluetooth connection.

Once that’s done and Phone Link is set up, then things like phone call history, iMessages, and the content of any notifications can be viewed on that PC, with the iPhone owner unaware that any of their data is being compromised in this manner.

Certo notes that “cyberstalkers seem to be rapidly exploiting this new feature” and that this is obviously worrying.

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Thai Nguyen / Unsplash)

Analysis: What can be done?

This is particularly concerning as it could be leveraged in scenarios where, for example, an abusive partner might use this. They’d be able to view all messages and notifications, and engage in some quite in-depth spying on their victim, all without their partner’s knowledge.

If you own an iPhone and are now feeling concerned, Certo explains there are several actions you can take to check that you’re not being spied on in this way. Firstly, if you don’t ever use Bluetooth, check to make sure it’s turned off – without that wireless connection enabled, there can be no communication with the linked Windows PC.

Alternatively, you can look at what devices have been hooked up to your iPhone’s Bluetooth, and delete any you don’t recognize. To do that, head into Settings, and navigate to Bluetooth > My Devices. If you see any devices that you’re not sure about, or don’t know what they are, you can use ‘Forget This Device’ to remove them from your iPhone (thereby cutting the link).

Finally, it obviously helps if no one else knows your iPhone passcode to unlock it to gain access – if they do, or you think they might, then change it, and don’t share the passcode with anyone at all (after you’ve completed the above Bluetooth housekeeping).

Certo further warns: “As with previous loopholes in iPhone security, it may not be long before spyware makers start creating tools that make use of this method to extract even more information from victim’s iPhones.”

We don’t know how widely this method might’ve been exploited thus far, as the suggestion seems to be it’s just a scattering of reports, with the potential for things to get worse.

Hopefully, both Microsoft and Apple will be looking into this right now, to ensure that doesn’t happen, and to take any extra measures necessary to defend the privacy of iPhone users. One of Certo’s suggestions is for Apple to bring in some kind of visual warning indicator in iOS when notifications or messages are being shared with another device via Bluetooth.

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Windows 11 just got loads of new features including one that iPhone owners will love

Windows 11 has just been graced with a big update, albeit not a full feature update, but one of Microsoft’s so-called ‘Moment’ upgrades.

Moment 2 to be precise, and if that sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft released it in testing (as an optional update) at the end of February. Now, however, it has arrived as a full release, which means it’s coming to all Windows 11 PCs as we type this.

If you haven’t already been offered what is formally known as patch KB5023706, then you can head to Windows Update and check for new updates, whereupon you should see Moment 2 ready to roll.

The update introduces a raft of new features, including improvements for those using Windows 11 with a touchscreen (a touch-optimized taskbar). Another big move is Phone Link for iOS, giving iPhone owners the ability to hook up their handset to the desktop (giving access to iMessage correspondence from their PC).

Windows 11 will now provide energy efficiency recommendations and additional help when troubleshooting issues with your PC (via ‘Quick Assist’). On top of that, the system tray has been given a fresh lick of paint in the form of a rounded focus (rather than square, when mousing over icons bottom-right, to be more in keeping with the rest of Windows 11’s modern look).

Accessibility features have also been improved, most notably with enhanced support for braille devices, and Voice Access getting new commands.

As well as all the feature additions, KB5023706 comes boasting the usual slew of security fixes provided by Microsoft with these monthly cumulative updates.

Analysis: Plenty of features and hopefully no bugs

So, all the testing of the preview version of the Moment 2 update is now done and dusted, and with no major bugbears sighted, everything should go smoothly with the upgrade now it has become available – in theory. Of course, when a much wider rollout happens, with a lot more PCs involved, fresh bugs can still make their unwelcome presence felt.

Nothing’s guaranteed even with finished updates for Windows, as we’ve seen in the past. Windows 10 in particular has seen the release of patches with some serious problems lurking within (we’re talking file deletion, if you recall that memorable and very unfortunate episode).

Another thing you might also recall is when Microsoft revealed the preview version of Moment 2, the company talked about the ChatGPT-powered Bing being put on the taskbar, giving us the impression that this was a full integration of the AI chatbot with the Windows 11 interface.

As we’ve discussed in the past, though, this wasn’t the case – the implementation of this ‘feature’ (ahem) was simply a link in the search box that brought up Bing in the Edge browser.

Users were pretty disappointed about that, and the Bing icon swiftly vanished, with Microsoft subsequently assuring us that the chatbot hadn’t been ditched from the taskbar, but was in a rotation with other search highlights. And wouldn’t you know, just as Moment 2 is rolling out, we can now see the Bing icon in our search box once again (doubtless just temporarily, though). Interesting timing…

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