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Apple’s iPhone 14 line links up with satellites for emergency messaging

The iPhone just became the first consumer-level smartphone with satellite connectivity functionality (at least in the U.S.)At the Apple event on Wednesday, the iPhone maker announced a brand new feature alongside the new iPhone 14: emergency SOS via satellite. Basically, the new iPhone 14s will be able to connect to emergency services anywhere in the world regardless of whether there is an internet or cellular connection. In order to make this service work, a user will basically need to point their iPhone at the exact location of a satellite passing by overhead. As Apple explained it, this would’ve previously required a big bulky antenna. And, obviously, human beings can’t see the satellites flying in space with the naked eye. But, that’s where the iPhone 14 steps in. The device will tell users where to point the iPhone and where to move it, if necessary. The iPhone 14 will also allow users to share their location via satellite as well.This feature is really just meant for emergency situations. And Apple realizes that even with the satellite connectivity ability, other issues can arise. But, the company has solutions for those issues already.In order to get messages to emergency services as fast as possible, Apple has developed a new messaging algorithm meant to compress the size of messages so they’re delivered at optimal speed. The feature also provides the user with prompts, basically a series of multiple choice questions regarding the emergency the user is experiencing in order to get these messages sent out quickly. If the closest emergency service provider doesn’t accept text messages, Apple has relay centers set up to contact these providers with the content of your message.Despite the novelty of the iPhone satellite feature announcement, it didn’t take long for security concerns to come up.“Though satellite communication capabilities in mobile devices bring many positives, especially when it comes to emergency services, satellites and emerging Low Earth Orbit (LEO) communication technologies are high-value targets for adversarial actors,” said Christiaan Beek, sr. director of threat research & vulnerability research for Trellix Threat Labs, in a statement provided to Mashable. “We saw this earlier this year when actors targeting Ukraine used attacks on satellites to take communications channels offline and disrupt services across the country.”Beek explained that as these satellite networks are implemented in everyday tech more and more, they will increasingly be targeted by bad actors.”Adding millions of consumer mobile devices to these networks increases this risk,” he said. “In order for everyone to benefit from the promise of satellite connectivity on consumer mobile devices, it’s important for the industry to recognize this is not an impenetrable silver bullet and collaboration is required to protect these services. Satellite connectivity can be disrupted by nefarious actors.” It remains to be seen how Apple’s new satellite service will pan out but one thing’s for sure — it won’t be free. Apple hasn’t announced a pricing model for the feature yet, but it is offering two years of the service free with the purchase of a new iPhone 14. The service is targeted to launch in the U.S. and Canada this November. UPDATE: Sep. 7, 2022, 4:27 p.m. EDT This article has been updated with comment from security researcher Christiaan Beek.

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