Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Is Alerting iPhone Users of Spyware Attacks

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/07/apple-is-alerting-iphone-users-of-spyware-attacks.html

Not a lot of details:

Apple has issued a new round of threat notifications to iPhone users across 98 countries, warning them of potential mercenary spyware attacks. It’s the second such alert campaign from the company this year, following a similar notification sent to users in 92 nations in April.

Detecting Malicious Trackers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/05/detecting-malicious-trackers.html

From Slashdot:

Apple and Google have launched a new industry standard called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers” to combat the misuse of Bluetooth trackers for stalking. Starting Monday, iPhone and Android users will receive alerts when an unknown Bluetooth device is detected moving with them. The move comes after numerous cases of trackers like Apple’s AirTags being used for malicious purposes.

Several Bluetooth tag companies have committed to making their future products compatible with the new standard. Apple and Google said they will continue collaborating with the Internet Engineering Task Force to further develop this technology and address the issue of unwanted tracking.

This seems like a good idea, but I worry about false alarms. If I am walking with a friend, will it alert if they have a Bluetooth tracking device in their pocket?

Hardware Vulnerability in Apple’s M-Series Chips

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/03/hardware-vulnerability-in-apples-m-series-chips.html

It’s yet another hardware side-channel attack:

The threat resides in the chips’ data memory-dependent prefetcher, a hardware optimization that predicts the memory addresses of data that running code is likely to access in the near future. By loading the contents into the CPU cache before it’s actually needed, the DMP, as the feature is abbreviated, reduces latency between the main memory and the CPU, a common bottleneck in modern computing. DMPs are a relatively new phenomenon found only in M-series chips and Intel’s 13th-generation Raptor Lake microarchitecture, although older forms of prefetchers have been common for years.


The breakthrough of the new research is that it exposes a previously overlooked behavior of DMPs in Apple silicon: Sometimes they confuse memory content, such as key material, with the pointer value that is used to load other data. As a result, the DMP often reads the data and attempts to treat it as an address to perform memory access. This “dereferencing” of “pointers”—meaning the reading of data and leaking it through a side channel—­is a flagrant violation of the constant-time paradigm.


The attack, which the researchers have named GoFetch, uses an application that doesn’t require root access, only the same user privileges needed by most third-party applications installed on a macOS system. M-series chips are divided into what are known as clusters. The M1, for example, has two clusters: one containing four efficiency cores and the other four performance cores. As long as the GoFetch app and the targeted cryptography app are running on the same performance cluster—­even when on separate cores within that cluster­—GoFetch can mine enough secrets to leak a secret key.

The attack works against both classical encryption algorithms and a newer generation of encryption that has been hardened to withstand anticipated attacks from quantum computers. The GoFetch app requires less than an hour to extract a 2048-bit RSA key and a little over two hours to extract a 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman key. The attack takes 54 minutes to extract the material required to assemble a Kyber-512 key and about 10 hours for a Dilithium-2 key, not counting offline time needed to process the raw data.

The GoFetch app connects to the targeted app and feeds it inputs that it signs or decrypts. As its doing this, it extracts the app secret key that it uses to perform these cryptographic operations. This mechanism means the targeted app need not perform any cryptographic operations on its own during the collection period.

Note that exploiting the vulnerability requires running a malicious app on the target computer. So it could be worse. On the other hand, like many of these hardware side-channel attacks, it’s not possible to patch.

Slashdot thread.

Apple Announces Post-Quantum Encryption Algorithms for iMessage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/02/apple-announces-post-quantum-encryption-algorithms-for-imessage.html

Apple announced PQ3, its post-quantum encryption standard based on the Kyber secure key-encapsulation protocol, one of the post-quantum algorithms selected by NIST in 2022.

There’s a lot of detail in the Apple blog post, and more in Douglas Stabila’s security analysis.

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s probably premature to switch to any particular post-quantum algorithms. The mathematics of cryptanalysis for these lattice and other systems is still rapidly evolving, and we’re likely to break more of them—and learn a lot in the process—over the coming few years. But if you’re going to make the switch, this is an excellent choice. And Apple’s ability to do this so efficiently speaks well about its algorithmic agility, which is probably more important than its particular cryptographic design. And it is probably about the right time to worry about, and defend against, attackers who are storing encrypted messages in hopes of breaking them later on future quantum computers.

New iPhone Security Features to Protect Stolen Devices

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/12/new-iphone-security-features-to-protect-stolen-devices.html

Apple is rolling out a new “Stolen Device Protection” feature that seems well thought out:

When Stolen Device Protection is turned on, Face ID or Touch ID authentication is required for additional actions, including viewing passwords or passkeys stored in iCloud Keychain, applying for a new Apple Card, turning off Lost Mode, erasing all content and settings, using payment methods saved in Safari, and more. No passcode fallback is available in the event that the user is unable to complete Face ID or Touch ID authentication.

For especially sensitive actions, including changing the password of the Apple ID account associated with the iPhone, the feature adds a security delay on top of biometric authentication. In these cases, the user must authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID, wait one hour, and authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID again. However, Apple said there will be no delay when the iPhone is in familiar locations, such as at home or work.

More details at the link.

Apple to Add Manual Authentication to iMessage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/11/apple-to-add-manual-authentication-to-imessage.html

Signal has had the ability to manually authenticate another account for years. iMessage is getting it:

The feature is called Contact Key Verification, and it does just what its name says: it lets you add a manual verification step in an iMessage conversation to confirm that the other person is who their device says they are. (SMS conversations lack any reliable method for verification­—sorry, green-bubble friends.) Instead of relying on Apple to verify the other person’s identity using information stored securely on Apple’s servers, you and the other party read a short verification code to each other, either in person or on a phone call. Once you’ve validated the conversation, your devices maintain a chain of trust in which neither you nor the other person has given any private encryption information to each other or Apple. If anything changes in the encryption keys each of you verified, the Messages app will notice and provide an alert or warning.

Crashing iPhones with a Flipper Zero

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/11/crashing-iphones-with-a-flipper-zero.html

The Flipper Zero is an incredibly versatile hacking device. Now it can be used to crash iPhones in its vicinity by sending them a never-ending stream of pop-ups.

These types of hacks have been possible for decades, but they require special equipment and a fair amount of expertise. The capabilities generally required expensive SDRs­—short for software-defined radios­—that, unlike traditional hardware-defined radios, use firmware and processors to digitally re-create radio signal transmissions and receptions. The $200 Flipper Zero isn’t an SDR in its own right, but as a software-controlled radio, it can do many of the same things at an affordable price and with a form factor that’s much more convenient than the previous generations of SDRs.

Spyware in India

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/11/spyware-in-india.html

Apple has warned leaders of the opposition government in India that their phones are being spied on:

Multiple top leaders of India’s opposition parties and several journalists have received a notification from Apple, saying that “Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID ….”

AccessNow puts this in context:

For India to uphold fundamental rights, authorities must initiate an immediate independent inquiry, implement a ban on the use of rights-abusing commercial spyware, and make a commitment to reform the country’s surveillance laws. These latest warnings build on repeated instances of cyber intrusion and spyware usage, and highlights the surveillance impunity in India that continues to flourish despite the public outcry triggered by the 2019 Pegasus Project revelations.

Apple M3 Family of CPUs Launched with Some Shaky Performance Claims

Post Syndicated from Patrick Kennedy original https://www.servethehome.com/apple-m3-family-of-arm-cpus-launched-with-some-shaky-performance-claims/

The Apple M3 family of chips launched with some advancements but also intentionally shaky performance claims that should warrant a look by consumer protection agencies

The post Apple M3 Family of CPUs Launched with Some Shaky Performance Claims appeared first on ServeTheHome.

Zero-Click Exploit in iPhones

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/09/zero-click-exploit-in-iphones.html

Make sure you update your iPhones:

Citizen Lab says two zero-days fixed by Apple today in emergency security updates were actively abused as part of a zero-click exploit chain (dubbed BLASTPASS) to deploy NSO Group’s Pegasus commercial spyware onto fully patched iPhones.

The two bugs, tracked as CVE-2023-41064 and CVE-2023-41061, allowed the attackers to infect a fully-patched iPhone running iOS 16.6 and belonging to a Washington DC-based civil society organization via PassKit attachments containing malicious images.

“We refer to the exploit chain as BLASTPASS. The exploit chain was capable of compromising iPhones running the latest version of iOS (16.6) without any interaction from the victim,” Citizen Lab said.

“The exploit involved PassKit attachments containing malicious images sent from an attacker iMessage account to the victim.”

When Apps Go Rogue

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/08/when-apps-go-rogue.html

Interesting story of an Apple Macintosh app that went rogue. Basically, it was a good app until one particular update…when it went bad.

With more official macOS features added in 2021 that enabled the “Night Shift” dark mode, the NightOwl app was left forlorn and forgotten on many older Macs. Few of those supposed tens of thousands of users likely noticed when the app they ran in the background of their older Macs was bought by another company, nor when earlier this year that company silently updated the dark mode app so that it hijacked their machines in order to send their IP data through a server network of affected computers, AKA a botnet.

This is not an unusual story. Sometimes the apps are sold. Sometimes they’re orphaned, and then taken over by someone else.

Escrow Buddy: An open-source tool from Netflix for remediation of missing FileVault keys in MDM

Post Syndicated from Netflix Technology Blog original https://netflixtechblog.com/escrow-buddy-an-open-source-tool-from-netflix-for-remediation-of-missing-filevault-keys-in-mdm-815aef5107cd

Netflix has open-sourced Escrow Buddy, which helps Security and IT teams ensure they have valid FileVault recovery keys for all their Macs in MDM.

To be a client systems engineer is to take joy in small endpoint automations that make your fellow employees’ day a little better. When somebody is unable to log into their FileVault-encrypted Mac, few words are more joyful to hear than a support technician saying, “I’ve got your back. Let’s look up the recovery key.”

Securely and centrally escrowing FileVault personal recovery keys is one of many capabilities offered by Mobile Device Management (MDM). A configuration profile that contains the FDERecoveryKeyEscrow payload will cause any new recovery key generated on the device, either by initially enabling FileVault or by manually changing the recovery key, to be automatically escrowed to your MDM for later retrieval if needed.

The problem of missing FileVault keys

However, just because you’re deploying the MDM escrow payload to your managed Macs doesn’t necessarily mean you have valid recovery keys for all of them. Recovery keys can be missing from MDM for numerous reasons:

  • FileVault may have been enabled prior to enrollment in MDM
  • The MDM escrow payload may not have been present on the Mac due to scoping issues or misconfiguration on your MDM
  • The Macs may be migrating from a different MDM in which the keys are stored
  • MDM database corruption or data loss events may have claimed some or all of your escrowed keys

Regardless of the cause, the effect is people who get locked out of their Macs must resort to wiping their computer and starting fresh — a productivity killer if your data is backed up, and a massive data loss event if it’s not backed up.

Less than ideal solutions

IT and security teams have approached this problem from multiple angles in the past. On a per-computer basis, a new key can be generated by disabling and re-enabling FileVault, but this leaves the computer in an unencrypted state briefly and requires multiple steps. The built-in fdesetup command line tool can also be used to generate a new key, but not all users are comfortable entering Terminal commands. Plus, neither of these ideas scale to meet the needs of a fleet of Macs hundreds or thousands strong.

Another approach has been to use a tool capable of displaying an onscreen text input field to the user in order to display a password prompt, and then pass the provided password as input to the fdesetup tool for generating a new key. However, this requires IT and security teams to communicate in advance of the remediation campaign to affected users, in order to give them the context they need to respond to the additional password prompt. Even more concerning, this password prompt approach has a detrimental effect on security culture because it contributes to “consent fatigue.” Users will be more likely to approve other types of password prompt, which may inadvertently prime them to be targeted by malware or ransomware.

The ideal solution would be one which can be automated across your entire fleet while not requiring any additional user interaction.

Crypt and its authorization plugin

macOS authorization plugins provide a way to connect with Apple’s authorization services API and participate in decisions around user login. They can also facilitate automations that require information available only in the “login window” context, such as the provided username and password.

Relatively few authorization plugins are broadly used within the Mac admin community, but one popular example is the Crypt agent. In its typical configuration the Crypt agent enforces FileVault upon login and escrows the resulting recovery key to a corresponding Crypt server. The agent also enables rotation of recovery keys after use, local storage and validation of recovery keys, and other features.

While the Crypt agent can be deployed standalone and configured to simply regenerate a key upon next login, escrowing keys to MDM isn’t Crypt’s primary use case. Additionally, not all organizations have the time, expertise, or interest to commit to hosting a Crypt server and its accompanying database, or auditing the parts of Crypt’s codebase relating to its server capabilities.

Introducing Escrow Buddy

Inspired by Crypt’s example, our Client Systems Engineering team created a minimal authorization plugin focused on serving the needs of organizations who escrow FileVault keys to MDM only. We call this new tool Escrow Buddy.

Escrow Buddy logo

Escrow Buddy’s authorization plugin includes a mechanism that, when added to the macOS login authorization database, will use the logging in user’s credentials as input to the fdesetup tool to automatically and seamlessly generate a new key during login. By integrating with the familiar and trusted macOS login experience, Escrow Buddy eliminates the need to display additional prompts or on-screen messages.

Security and IT teams can take advantage of Escrow Buddy in three steps:

  1. Ensure your MDM is deploying the FDERecoveryKeyEscrow payload to your managed Macs. This will ensure any newly generated FileVault key, no matter the method of generation, will be automatically escrowed to MDM.
  2. Deploy Escrow Buddy. The latest installer is available here, and you can choose to deploy to all your managed Macs or just the subset for which you need to escrow new keys.
  3. On Macs that lack a valid escrowed key, configure your MDM to run this command in root context:
defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.netflix.Escrow-Buddy.plist GenerateNewKey -bool true

That’s it! At next startup or login, the specified Macs should generate a new key, which will be automatically escrowed to your MDM when the Mac next responds to a SecurityInfo command. (Timing varies by MDM vendor but this is often during an inventory update.)

Community contribution

Netflix is making Escrow Buddy’s source available via the Mac Admins Open Source organization on GitHub, the home of many other important projects in the Mac IT and security community, including Nudge, InstallApplications, Outset, and the Munki signed builds. Thousands of organizations worldwide benefit from the tools and ideas shared by the Mac admin community, and Netflix is excited that Escrow Buddy will be among them.

The Escrow Buddy repository leverages GitHub Actions to streamline the process of building new codesigned and notarized releases when new changes are merged into the main branch. Our hope is that this will make it easy for contributors to collaborate and improve upon Escrow Buddy.

A rising tide…

Escrow Buddy represents our desire to elevate the industry standard around FileVault key regeneration. If your organization currently employs a password prompt workflow for this scenario, please consider trying Escrow Buddy instead. We hope you’ll find it more automatic, more supportive of security culture, and enables you to more often say “I’ve got your back” to your fellow employees who need a recovery key.

Elliot Jordan

Escrow Buddy: An open-source tool from Netflix for remediation of missing FileVault keys in MDM was originally published in Netflix TechBlog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Using the iPhone Recovery Key to Lock Owners Out of Their iPhones

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/04/using-the-iphone-recovery-key-to-lock-owners-out-of-their-iphones.html

This a good example of a security feature that can sometimes harm security:

Apple introduced the optional recovery key in 2020 to protect users from online hackers. Users who turn on the recovery key, a unique 28-digit code, must provide it when they want to reset their Apple ID password.

iPhone thieves with your passcode can flip on the recovery key and lock you out. And if you already have the recovery key enabled, they can easily generate a new one, which also locks you out.

Apple’s policy gives users virtually no way back into their accounts without that recovery key. For now, a stolen iPhone could mean devastating personal losses.

It’s actually a complicated crime. The criminal first watches their victim type in their passcode and then grabs the phone out of their hands. In the basic mode of this attack, they have a few hours to use the phone—trying to access bank accounts, etc.—before the owner figures out how to shut the attacker out. With the addition of the recovery key, the attacker can shut the owner out—for a long time.

The goal of the recovery key was to defend against SIM swapping, which is a much more common crime. But this spy-and-grab attack has become more common, and the recovery key makes it much more devastating.

Defenses are few: choose a long, complex passcode. Or set parental controls in a way that further secure the device. The obvious fix is for Apple to redesign its recovery system.

There are other, less privacy-compromising methods Apple could still rely on in lieu of a recovery key.

If someone takes over your Google account, Google’s password-reset process lets you provide a recovery email, phone number or account password, and you can use them to regain access later, even if a hijacker changes them.

Going through the process on a familiar Wi-Fi network or location can also help demonstrate you’re who you say you are.

Or how about an eight-hour delay before the recovery key can be changed?

This not an easy thing to design for, but we have to get this right as phones become the single point of control for our lives.

New Zero-Click Exploits against iOS

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/04/new-zero-click-exploits-against-ios.html

Citizen Lab has identified three zero-click exploits against iOS 15 and 16. These were used by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware in 2022, and deployed by Mexico against human rights defenders. These vulnerabilities have all been patched.

One interesting bit is that Apple’s Lockdown Mode (part of iOS 16) seems to have worked to prevent infection.

News article.

EDITED TO ADD (4/21): News article. Good Twitter thread.

Bypassing a Theft Threat Model

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/04/bypassing-a-theft-threat-model.html

Thieves cut through the wall of a coffee shop to get to an Apple store, bypassing the alarms in the process.

I wrote about this kind of thing in 2000, in Secrets and Lies (page 318):

My favorite example is a band of California art thieves that would break into people’s houses by cutting a hole in their walls with a chainsaw. The attacker completely bypassed the threat model of the defender. The countermeasures that the homeowner put in place were door and window alarms; they didn’t make a difference to this attack.

The article says they took half a million dollars worth of iPhones. I don’t understand iPhone device security, but don’t they have a system of denying stolen phones access to the network?

EDITED TO ADD (4/13): A commenter says: “Locked idevices will still sell for 40-60% of their value on eBay and co, they will go to Chinese shops to be stripped for parts. A aftermarket ‘oem-quality’ iPhone 14 display is $400+ alone on ifixit.”

Apple Patches iPhone Zero-Day

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/12/apple-patches-iphone-zero-day.html

The most recent iPhone update—to version 16.1.2—patches a zero-day vulnerability that “may have been actively exploited against versions of iOS released before iOS 15.1.”


Apple said security researchers at Google’s Threat Analysis Group, which investigates nation state-backed spyware, hacking and cyberattacks, discovered and reported the WebKit bug.

WebKit bugs are often exploited when a person visits a malicious domain in their browser (or via the in-app browser). It’s not uncommon for bad actors to find vulnerabilities that target WebKit as a way to break into the device’s operating system and the user’s private data. WebKit bugs can be “chained” to other vulnerabilities to break through multiple layers of a device’s defenses.

Apple Is Finally Encrypting iCloud Backups

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/12/apple-is-finally-encrypting-icloud-backups.html

After way too many years, Apple is finally encrypting iCloud backups:

Based on a screenshot from Apple, these categories are covered when you flip on Advanced Data Protection: device backups, messages backups, iCloud Drive, Notes, Photos, Reminders, Safari bookmarks, Siri Shortcuts, Voice Memos, and Wallet Passes. Apple says the only “major” categories not covered by Advanced Data Protection are iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar because “of the need to interoperate with the global email, contacts, and calendar systems,” according to its press release.

You can see the full list of data categories and what is protected under standard data protection, which is the default for your account, and Advanced Data Protection on Apple’s website.

With standard data protection, Apple holds the encryption keys for things that aren’t end-to-end encrypted, which means the company can help you recover that data if needed. Data that’s end-to-end encrypted can only be encrypted on “your trusted devices where you’re signed in with your Apple ID,” according to Apple, meaning that the company—or law enforcement or hackers—cannot access your data from Apple’s databases.

Note that this system doesn’t have the backdoor that was in Apple’s previous proposal, the one put there under the guise of detecting CSAM.

Apple says that it will roll out worldwide by the end of next year. I wonder how China will react to this.

Apple’s Device Analytics Can Identify iCloud Users

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/11/apples-device-analytics-can-identify-icloud-users.html

Researchers claim that supposedly anonymous device analytics information can identify users:

On Twitter, security researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry have found that Apple’s device analytics data includes an iCloud account and can be linked directly to a specific user, including their name, date of birth, email, and associated information stored on iCloud.

Apple has long claimed otherwise:

On Apple’s device analytics and privacy legal page, the company says no information collected from a device for analytics purposes is traceable back to a specific user. “iPhone Analytics may include details about hardware and operating system specifications, performance statistics, and data about how you use your devices and applications. None of the collected information identifies you personally,” the company claims.

Apple was just sued for tracking iOS users without their consent, even when they explicitly opt out of tracking.