It’s an early Christmas miracle for the remaining users of the iPhone 6, Apple Watch Series 2, and earlier devices running iOS 12 or watchOS 6. Apple has released a pair of updates—iOS 12.5 and watchOS 6.3—to fix a major security hole and add support for COVID-19 exposure notifications to older iPhones. For more details on exposure notifications and a look at one of the supporting apps, see “iOS 13.7 Integrates Apple’s COVID-19 Exposure Notifications” (1 September 2020) and “A Tour of New York State’s COVID Alert NY App” (2 October 2020).
Both iOS 12.5 and watchOS 6.3 fix a single security vulnerability. Apple’s release notes say that without these updates, “Unauthorized code execution may lead to an authentication policy violation.” That makes it sound as though an attacker could essentially gain control of your iPhone or Apple Watch. Given how infrequently Apple releases security updates for older versions of iOS and watchOS, we recommend installing these updates once they’ve been out for a week without generating problematic reports from the community.
As always, you can update your iPhone in Settings > General > Software Update, through iTunes in macOS 10.14 Mojave and earlier, or in the Finder in later versions. Update your Apple Watch by going to My Watch > General > Software Update in the Watch app on your iPhone.