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New iOS 5.0.1 update fixes bugs and battery issues

Plugs hole Charlie Miller revealed this week that could let criminals plant rogue apps in App Store

iOS 5.0.1 can be grabbed without connecting an iPhone or iPad to a computer. Apple today released iOS 5.0.1, the anticipated update designed to fix multiple unspecified bugs that drained the iPhone's battery much faster than expected.

The update also patched five security vulnerabilities, including one revealed earlier this week by noted researcher Charlie Miller, who demonstrated that Apple's App Store code signing could be sidestepped to download malware onto an iPhone without the owner's knowledge.

iOS 5.0.1 was the first update that Apple delivered "over-the-air" -- in other words, without requiring users to connect their devices to a Windows PC or Mac, and launching iTunes -- a new feature that debuted with iOS 5 in October.

Apple did not spell out the specific battery-related patches, saying only "Fixes bugs affecting battery life" in a short list of the update's contents.

Almost immediately after the launch of the iPhone 4S, owners began reporting that the phone was exhausting its battery at a prodigious rate, with some claiming that their batteries were losing 1% of their power every few minutes.

While some users Thursday morning said that they had already downloaded iOS 5.0.1, it was too early for results reports to appear on Apple's support forum.

Other fixes included in iOS 5.0.1 claimed to resolve bugs with documents stored and synced using iCloud, improved voice dictation accuracy for Australian users, and added multitasking gestures to 2010's first-generation iPad.

On the security front, Apple patched five vulnerabilities and also revoked the digital certificates of a Malaysian certificate authority (CA). Microsoft and Mozilla had done the same last week for their Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers.

The most notable patch was for the bug discovered earlier this year by Miller, principal research consultant for Denver-based security firm Accuvant and the only four-time winner at the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest.

That bug let Miller craft an iOS app, which Apple approved and distributed via its App Store. Miller's app, however, exploited the flaw to force the app to "phone home" to a server he controlled, which then could issue commands to any hijacked iPhone running iOS 4.3 or later.

Miller informed Apple of the bug in October, but did not tell the company he had created an app to demonstrate the flaw. Apple's reaction was swift: It bounced Miller from the iOS developer program and banned him from reapplying for a full year.

Although Miller was unable to test the patch in iOS 5.0.1 because his app had been yanked from the App Store, he pointed out the appearance of the update, and as he had done earlier this week, defended his research.

"Even if some thought what I did was unethical, I hope public reporting of that flaw sped up time to patch release to make things safe for us," Miller said on Twitter today.

Apple credited Miller in its security advisory for reporting the bug.

Other patches plugged holes in FreeType, iOS' font-rendering engine, and quashed a bug that let people with physical access to a passcode-locked iPad 2 view data on the tablet when Apple's Smart Cover was opened.

iOS 5.0.1 weighed in at between 39MB and 45MB on multiple iPhones and iPads owned by Computerworld staffers when the devices retrieved the update over the air.

Connecting an iPhone 4 to iTunes, however, revealed a massive update of some 790MB.

To do an over-the-air update, select the "Settings" app on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, then touch "General" and finally "Software Update."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

See more articles by Gregg Keizer .

Read more about mobile oses in Computerworld's Mobile OSes Topic Center.


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