Apple’s iOS 13.3 update was rolled out earlier this week. Included in the Tuesday update was a feature designed to assist parents in controlling who their children talked to on iPhone and iPad devices. Many parents were elated by the news that Apple was including this quality of life feature.
Unfortunately, as CNBC was quick to discover, the update isn’t without its flaws. The software update brought a new feature to the iPhone and iPad called Communication Limits. A current bug, in fact, still allows children from communicating with strangers via phone calls, Facetime, and text.
Communication Limits was designed to let parents block their child from speaking to anyone not registered on their child’s address book. In order to add a new contact, a PIN would have to be entered, thus blocking outside communications with strangers. However, there is a loophole that exists.
CNBC‘s report indicates that if contacts are not stored in iCloud, users can bypass the Communication Limit restrictions. During a test, CNBC set up an iPhone with Communication Limit as a child’s device and discovered that if an unknown number texts the child’s phone, they were given the option to add the number to their address book and contact that number without a PIN.
In CNBC‘s experiments, they discovered that upon initial communications with the unknown number, the keyboard would disappear when attempting to text the number. They were able to recover the keyboard by backing out of the thread and reentering. They also found out that asking Siri to text or call a number on Apple Watch would go through without the contact being added to the address book altogether.
There is a workaround to this loophole. This exploit can be shut down if the child’s device is on Downtime. This feature limits the use of certain apps and functions based on controls the parent has set. In addition, Apple told CNBC, “This issue only occurs on devices set up with a non-standard configuration, and a workaround is available. We’re working on a complete fix and will release it in an upcoming software update.”
In order to ensure children can not contact those not on their address book, the parent will need to ensure the device is set to sync contacts with iCloud. In order to do so, they must go into Settings, open Contacts, select Default Account, and change it to iCloud from any other setting.
Until Apple fixes the bug, it seems as though parents will have to do their due diligence to block unwanted communications between their children and strangers.