WiFi networks can brick your iPhone if you don't update it

Back in February, it was discovered that you could brick your iPhone just by changing the date. Of course, you'd have to go very far out of your way to do this, as you needed to send it back in time to the very beginning of 1970 to do the trick. Well, it turns out that this strange event could lead to someone using a malicious WiFi network to brick your phone.

When you connect to a WiFi network for the first time, you'll either need to enter the network's key, or confirm that you want to connect to an insecure network. Once you've done that, you'll never have to take any action to connect to a network with the exact same name. So long as the key (or lack thereof) doesn't change, your phone retains that information, and just connects you the next time that you're in range.

That's pretty common knowledge, but what happens when you have two very different networks, with the same name? For instance, you might encounter a free WiFi network called attwifi. These are pretty common, as AT&T has set them up all over the country in various places. Once you've connected to one, you'll have free internet access wherever one of these networks exist. But what happens when someone sets up their own open network that's also called attwifi?

According to two security researchers, Patrick Kelly and Matt Harringan, Apple's devices connect to Network Time Protocol servers in order to get the correct date and time. Unfortunately, they found that there is a vulnerability in the way your devices connect.

If someone setup a malicious WiFi network, as outlined above, and forced all of the connected devices to use a compromised NTP server, it would go ahead and change your iPhone or iPad's date back to January 1, 1970. And unless you're running the latest version of Apple's iOS, your phone would start experiencing some major issues. One reboot later, and your device would be dead in the water.

There is a simple fix for this particular issue, which is to make sure you're running iOS 9.3.1 or later. This will prevent the phone from being bricked by having its date changed back to 1970.