watchOS 8’5’s Mail Privacy Protection no longer exposes IP addresses

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Apple with watchOS 8.5 has fixed a security oversight in the Mail Privacy Protection feature by disabling a loophole that could actually expose your IP addresses.

Apple's marketing image showing Black Unity Braided Solo Loop band for Apple Watch along with a special Unity Lights watch face celebrating Black History Month
Image credit: Apple

Apple fixes Mail Privacy Protection in watchOS 8.5

Though n ot acknowledged in Apple’s support document listing watchOS 8.5’s security contents, the update does fix a major loophole in Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature that exposes your IP addresses. Apple has already addressed this issue on its other devices with previous iOS, iPadOS and macOS updates.

Writing on Twitter, security experts and iOS developers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk explain that the Mail vulnerability could reveal the IP address of your Apple Watch whenefer downloading remote content such as images.

Hartley Charlton, MacRumors:

The Apple Watch downloads remote content, such as images, using the recipient’s real IP address, both when receiving a Mail notification and when opening an email, meaning that even for users who had enabled Mail Privacy Protection on their ‌iPhone‌, their IP address can be exposed.

And:

While Mail Privacy Protection is a feature exclusive to ‌iOS 15‌, ‌iPadOS 15‌ and ‌macOS Monterey‌, the fact that simply receiving a Mail notification on the Apple Watch could reveal a user’s IP address and bypass Mail Privacy Protection on other devices seemed to be an oversight. Now, Bakry and Mysk have found that Apple has fixed the issue in watchOS 8.5.

Apple has fixed this in watchOS 8.5 by preventing remote images and other content from loading by default. Don’t worry, you can still decide how Mail Privacy Protection should behave by choosing between allowing remote content only for the current email or for all incoming emails, right from the notification.

To turn on Mail Privacy Protection on your Apple Watch, open settings for the Mail app in the companion Watch app on your iPhone, then switch on “Protect Mail Activity.” According to the feature’s description, Mail Privacy Protection works by hiding your IP address and loading remote content privately in the background, even when you don’t open the message.

How to install watchOS 8.5 on your Apple Watch

Available for Apple Watch Series 3 and later, watchOS 8.5 can be downloaded and installed on the device through the companion Watch app on your paired iPhone.

  1. Open the companion Watch app on your paired iPhone.
  2. In the Watch app, select the “My Watch” tab.
  3. Choose “General” from the main list.
  4. Hit the option labeled “Software Update.”
  5. If asked for your iPhone or Apple Watch passcode, enter it to begin the download.
  6. Wait for the progress wheel to appear on your Apple Watch.

The device bis now installing the update, which can take quite a long time. Be sure to check out our neat tip which will help you speed up watchOS updates dramatically.

What else is new in watchOS 8.5?

It being a mid-cycle release, watchOS 8.5 includes a handful of improvements listed on the Apple website. One of them is a new way to approve Apple TV purchases. You’ve already been available to approve certain Mac prompts from your wrist. With watchOS 8.5, you can now authorize Apple TV purchases and subscriptions by double-pressing the watch’s side button. Read: How to set up your Medical ID

Next, the irregular heart rhythm feature now uses updated notifications that Apple says help improve atrial fibrillation identification. Another cool new feature lets you restore an Apple Watch using a nearby iPhone. Last but not least, watchOS 8.5 (and iOS 15.4, iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3) brings new emoji characters such as melting face, biting lip, heart hands, bubbles, beans, face with a diagonal mouth, palm-up hand, eggs, troll, low battery, coral, lotus and more.





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