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September is Apple hardware season, where we expect new iPhones, a new Apple Watch and more. But what makes the good stuff run is the software within.
First revealed earlier this year at the company’s annual WWDC developer event in June, iOS 12 and macOS Mojave focus on a running theme: security and privacy for the masses.
Ahead of Wednesday big reveal, here’s all the good stuff to look out for.
Safari now prevents browser fingerprinting and cross-site tracking
What does it do? Safari will use a new “intelligent tracking prevention” feature to prevent advertisers from following you from site to site. Even social networks like Facebook know which sites you visit because so many embed Facebook’s tools — like the comments section or the “Like” button.
Why does it matter? Tracking prevention will prevent ad firms from building a unique “fingerprint” of your browser, making it difficult to serve you targeted ads — even when you’re in incognito mode or private browsing. That’s an automatic boost for personal privacy as these companies will find it more difficult to build up profiles on you.
Camera, microphone, backups now require permission
What does it do? Just like when an app asks you for access to your contacts and calendar, now Mojave will ask for permission before an app can access your FaceTime camera and microphone, as well as location data, backups and more.
Why does it matter? By expanding this feature, it’s much more difficult for apps to switch on your camera without warning or record from your microphone without you noticing. That’s going to prevent surreptitious ultrasonic ad tracking and surveillance by malware that hijack your camera. But also asking permission for access to your backups — often unencrypted — will prevent malware or hackers from quietly stealing your data.
Password manager will warn of password reuse
What does it do? iOS 12’s in-built password manager, which stores all your passwords for easy access, will now tell if you’re using the same password across different sites and apps.
Why does it matter? Password reuse is a real problem. If you use the same password on every site, it only takes one site breach to grab your password for every other site you use. iOS 12 will let you know if you’re using a weak password or the same password on different sites. Your passwords are easily accessible with your fingerprint or your passcode.
Two-factor codes will be auto-filled
What does it do? When you are sent a two-factor code — such as a text message or a push notification — iOS 12 will take that code and automatically enter it into the login box.
Why does it matter? Two-factor authentication is good for security — it adds an extra layer of protection on top of your username and password. But adoption is low because two-factor is cumbersome and frustrating. This feature keeps the feature security intact while making it more seamless and less annoying.
USB Restricted Mode makes hacking more difficult
What does it do? This new security feature will lock any accessories out of your device — including USB cables and headphones — when your iPhone or iPad has been locked for more than an hour.
Why does it matter? This is an optional feature — first added to iOS 11.4.1 but likely to be widely adopted with iOS 12 — will make it more difficult for law enforcement (and hackers) to plug in your device and steal your sensitive data. Because your device is encrypted, not even Apple can get your data, but some devices — like GrayKeys — can brute-force your password. This feature will render these devices largely ineffective.
Apple’s event starts Wednesday at 10am PT (1pm ET).