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Apple to Alter VPN On Demand Behavior in iOS 6.1 and Later Due to VirnetX Lawsuit

virnetx_logoThe Loop points to a new Apple support document disclosing that the company will be changing the behavior of the VPN On Demand feature on iOS devices running iOS 6.1 or later through a software update to be released later this month. The changes have been necessitated by a $368 million judgment against Apple late last year in a patent lawsuit brought by VirnetX.
Devices using iOS 6.1 and later with VPN On Demand configured to "Always" will behave as if they were configured with the "Establish if needed" option. The device will establish a VPN On Demand connection only if it is unable to resolve the DNS name of the host it is trying to reach. This change will be distributed in an update later this month.
The support document outlines a number of scenarios in which this may cause difficulties for users, including when contacting servers that present different internal and external content or which resolve externally but can't be contacted.

Apple suggests that users who experience these issues turn on VPN manually as needed for the time being, a potentially significant inconvenience for users needing to make extensive use of the feature. Virtual private networking (VPN), which is most commonly used by corporate users to access company networks, allows a user to securely connect to a private network via public networks as if his or her device were directly on the private network.

Apple says that it will address the issue with other alternatives in a future software update, but has given no indication on what options will be available to users and when that update may appear.

Top Rated Comments

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22 months ago
A patent troll wins a $368M judgment against Apple, forcing Apple to change its software, but Apple can't get a final verdict and judgment in the obvious copying of Apple's products by Samsung? Seriously? Our system is totally messed up.
Rating: 22 Votes
22 months ago

A patent troll wins a $368M judgment against Apple, forcing Apple to change its software, but Apple can't get a final verdict and judgment in the obvious copying of Apple's products by Samsung? Seriously? Our system is totally messed up.


It is messed up when Apple loses but working fine when they win. Got it.
Rating: 21 Votes
22 months ago

Come again?

I don't know what this article is talking about - is it going to have an impact on me as a regular iOS user? Should I not update to iOS 6.1 to avoid having a feature taken away?


No, it won't have an impact on you as a regular user. But it'll be a headache for certain IT folks if they are big on locking down BYOD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_your_own_device)s.

VPN On Demand is set up on a certificate-level... basically, your workplace or whatever you're working on sets up a VPN and configures your iPhone to use it (or, requires you to configure it). And in that configuration, sets up a rule where certain websites, e-mail accounts, or other connections to certain domains require that the VPN get turned on, automatically.

This usually happens if you work at some place that handles sensitive information (top secret stuff, medical records, social security numbers, things you don't want leaking out), AND allows users to access that data over mobile devices.

Apparently, VirnetX managed to patent rule lists. Go figure.

To get around the issue, Apple is basically not honoring those automatic-turn-on rules, unless something happens at the server end to reject non-VPN'ed connections, first.


If this doesn't sound like anything you understand, or your workplace doesn't require you to use VPNs, then this definitely doesn't affect you at all, and you don't need to worry about it.
Rating: 14 Votes
22 months ago

The sheer fact that Apple's own software engineers testified that they did not spend any time determining if an software patents existed for the systems they were building is pretty telling. If one of the largest software companies in the world doesn't even bother looking to see if software patents exist when developing a new technology than bluntly what is the point in their existence? Other than to feed the insatiable need patent trolls have to plunder.


I'm not surprised: It is not the job of a software engineer to sift through patents to determine if they are being used in the code.
Rating: 12 Votes
22 months ago
VirnetX designed VPN on demand, and boy did they patent it
Rating: 10 Votes
22 months ago
“For years Apple refused to pay fair value for the VirnetX patents,” Doug Cawley, a lawyer with McKool Smith in Dallas who represents VirnetX, said in closing arguments. “Apple says they don’t infringe. But Apple developers testified that they didn’t pay any attention to anyone’s patents when developing their system.”

Apple was given the option to licence but refused. They went to court and lost.

Apple cant have it all ways.

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(Judgement against Apple) Cue 500+ posts about the patent system being broken, needs reformed, stupid patent system, patent trolls, this shouldn't even be patentable, etc.

(Judgement for Apple) Cue 500+ posts about patent system working, "die _______ die!", intellectual property should be protected, serves them right, other companies should innovate rather than copy, etc.
Rating: 10 Votes
22 months ago

The sheer fact that Apple's own software engineers testified that they did not spend any time determining if an software patents existed for the systems they were building is pretty telling. If one of the largest software companies in the world doesn't even bother looking to see if software patents exist when developing a new technology than bluntly what is the point in their existence? Other than to feed the insatiable need patent trolls have to plunder.


I'm pretty sure the idea behind a patent is that it's supposed to be for something that you couldn't trivially implement by mistake. The fact that Apple is just removing the code for it and never bothered to attempt to gain a patent on it themselves speaks to how trivial this patent is.
Rating: 7 Votes
22 months ago

It is messed up when Apple loses but working fine when they win. Got it.


Who is "they"? VirnetX is a patent troll - they don't make any products, just hold patents so they can sue companies and make money. That is okay with you?
Rating: 5 Votes
22 months ago

Apple screwing a single software behaviour: $368 million fine
Samsung stealing Apple technologies/design and abusing their provider role: $1 billions.

Seems that Samsung didn't pay that much ....


First (not a response to this poster);

Why does at least one person always respond to threads like these with "Apple should just buy the company"

Second (in response to this poster). Abusing? Yeah. Ok. Second - it's already much less than 1B and could very well be zero. Not a dime has been paid yet.
Rating: 4 Votes
22 months ago

Actually, It's messed up when a company leverages some IP that they have no plans of ever using in an actual product, to extort money from another firm, who has been slavishly copied on numerous occasions and can't get a judgement to save its life.

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If it was we'd never finish writing any software. The problem is that people are able to patent the most vague, and trivial things, without ever having to use them, and then us programmers just do our job and solve a problem and unknowingly infringe on someone's idiotic patent.


Facts: Virnetx has signed licenses with 4 smaller companies, as well as with Microsoft for $200M (that was a judgment VHC won).

Further facts: VHC is finishing up development of its Gabriel system, which will be part of the licensing agreements (Gabriel is an implementation of its patents).

One last fact: one Apple s/w engineer DID try to patent his work, only to find out that VHC had patented that work earlier. Therefore, the engineer felt the work was important.

Your welcome.
Rating: 4 Votes

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