197 reasons you should upgrade to iOS 6 immediately

A few days ago—ahead of today’s launch of the new iPhone 5—Apple released the latest version of iOS. Apple initially unveiled iOS 6 earlier this year, and it has spent the past few months trumpeting the 200-plus new and updated features. Secretly, though, there are another 197 reasons to make the switch to iOS 6—and they might be more important than the 200 Apple wants you to focus on.

If you refer to Apple’s iOS 6 site, you will learn about the new Maps app, Siri’s expanded skillset, Facebook integration, Passbook, conducting FaceTime chats over cellular networks and many more exciting reasons why you should want the new iOS. But, if you check out the Apple security advisory released on Wednesday you’ll find out that there are also 197 unpatched flaws and vulnerabilities in iOS 5.

The holes in iOS 5 come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of criticality. Do you protect your iPhone using a passcode? That can be bypassed a few different ways. Then, there’s the “flaw” in Apple’s implementation of SMS that could allow an attacker to spoof a text messageto appear as if it came from someone else.

Even if iOS 6 only fixed a couple security holes it would still be important. You should always patch if there’s a patch available. The reality is that—in spite of the fact that “zero-day” flaws make great hyperbolic headlines—most attacks target known vulnerabilities for which patches have already been developed.

There are two reasons for this. One, odds are fair that some attackers and malware developers already know about these holes. If an ethical security researcher can find it, then so can the bad guys. Just because Apple kept it secret until the patch was ready, and nobody told you about it, doesn’t make your iOS device any less vulnerable.

Second, now that Apple has developed the patch, and specified which 197 flaws and vulnerabilities it addresses, the bad guys have some clues to work with. The lazier attackers and malware developers who don’t have the initiative to seek out new holes on their own can simply reverse-engineer the update and compare it to the previous iOS to figure out what’s different so they can exploit the flaws.

Patched or not, you should take other steps to protect your iOS devices as well. Use the security controls available to protect it from unauthorized access (passcode bypassing vulnerabilities notwithstanding), and encrypt the data. Use some sort of cross-device security tool that can detect suspicious behavior, identify known threats, and guard against malicious activity on your mobile devices and PCs. And—most importantly—be vigilant and exercise common sense.

Are you part of the 15 percent of iOS users who have already downloaded and installed iOS 6? If not, it’s been two days--what are you waiting for? Get to it.

As a side note, though, iOS 6 is not compatible with some older iOS device models. If you still have an iPhone earlier than the 3GS, an iPod Touch older than the fourth generation model, or an original iPad, you’re stuck with iOS 5.

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