iOS 13.3 bug lets kids talk with strangers despite new parental controls

Apple's headaches with iOS 13 updates may have diminished but it's far from being a flawless situation. While there have been little reports in the way of broken updates or bricked iPhones, iOS 13.3 may bring its own list of concerns, especially from parents. The latest iOS update added a new feature that would protect kids against strangers but a bug in that Communication Limits ironically lets children get around those blocks, intentionally or otherwise.

More and more children are being exposed to mobile devices, sometimes even being given their own to use. That's why smartphone and platform makers have been adding features that would give parents more control over what their kids and cannot do. This is especially important when it comes to messages and calls from people that kids shouldn't be talking to, whether they know them or not.

iOS 13.3 introduced a Communication Limits feature that effective blocks kids from talking with people who are not on their phone book, be it via messaging or phone calls. Kids are also prevented from adding numbers to the phonebook, requiring that a parent enter a PIN, in case they get the bright idea to circumvent the limitation. Unfortunately, they apparently don't have to do much thanks to a bug that almost makes the feature useless.

CNBC discovered that the key to this flaw is whether the locked iPhone has its contacts synced to iCloud. If they aren't, children can directly add a number that sent them a message, which then allows that number to call them. And if they're fortunate enough to have an Apple Watch, they can also ask Siri there to message or call an unknown number.

Apple is already aware of the issue and is advising parents to sync kids' contacts to iCloud, not just locally to the phone or even Gmail, while it's working on a more proper fix. It is curious that Apple would overlook such a scenario that renders their protection ineffective but perhaps its developers were working under the presumption that all iPhone owners always sync to iCloud anyway.