Endpoint

11/29/2017
11:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Big Apple Flaw Allows Root Access to Macs without Password

Vulnerability affects machines running High Sierra operating system.

Mac users and administrators need to be on the lookout for compromised machines after a security researcher disclosed late yesterday a big flaw in Apple's macOS High Sierra platform that allows for password-less logins to root accounts. Publicly disclosed by software engineer Lemi Orhan Ergin via Twitter, the flaw allows someone with physical access to the machine to log in as "root" by leaving the password field empty in a System Preferences unlock screen.

This could be particularly thorny for enterprise environments where users might walk away from their machines, leaving them unattended, says John Bambenek, threat research manager for Fidelis Cybersecurity.

"Most times when people are outside corporate environments, they're either using their laptops or they're in their bag with them," he says. "In the corporate environment, you leave your stuff at your desk, insiders could easily start enabling local administrator accounts that then they could use to bypass local access controls on the endpoint."

According to Mike Buckbee, security engineer for Varonis, this flaw provides another reminder that physical access to a machine is still one of the biggest threats to that machine.

"If left for just a few moments in the wrong hands, your device could easily be compromised," he says.

Bambenek says that this flaw might also help enable laptop theft and that even though there's nothing found in the wild just yet, it could also potentially fuel phishing campaigns. 

"It's possible to script and create a working exploit to put into a phishing email or a browser-based lure. I don't think anyone has fully operationalized this maliciously in the wild yet, but if that did start happening, cleanup becomes more important," he says. "People will click on dumb things and Mac users have an artificial sense of security."

Early reports indicate that the issue came because the operating system doesn't handle a very specific error condition well; if that holds, Bambenek believes Apple will be able to get a patch out fairly quickly. In the interim, Apple has created a guide for users to work around the problem and mitigate the threat. Once the patch is applied, the trick will be figuring out which machines have had root accounts tampered with maliciously.

"Fixing the code seems pretty straightforward, but the cleanup part is hard," he says. "It's figuring out what to do with all the machines that may have these accounts created. You can't reset the passwords because somebody might legitimately have set the root password."

Related Content:

 

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
REISEN1955
100%
0%
REISEN1955,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2017 | 9:23:24 AM
Karma
I have been so tired by snotty and arrogant Mac users smuggly telling everybody that No virus-malware hacks exist for a Macintosh.  They are generally a nice but arrogant lot (much like Jobs) and so one has to smile.  Now welcome to the REAL WORLD!   It ain't a fun place full of nice bottom of the screen icons that get bigger when the mouse is moved over it.  (I hate the single button mouse too).   This could be taken as sour grapes.  
12 Free, Ready-to-Use Security Tools
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  10/12/2018
Most IT Security Pros Want to Change Jobs
Dark Reading Staff 10/12/2018
Most Malware Arrives Via Email
Dark Reading Staff 10/11/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Flash Poll
The Risk Management Struggle
The Risk Management Struggle
The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-1744
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 3.0 could allow a remote attacker to traverse directories on the system. An attacker could send a specially-crafted URL request containing "dot dot" sequences (/../) to view arbitrary files on the system. IBM X-Force ID: 148423.
CVE-2018-1747
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 3.0 is vulnerable to a XML External Entity Injection (XXE) attack when processing XML data. A remote attacker could exploit this vulnerability to expose sensitive information or consume memory resources. IBM X-Force ID: 148428.
CVE-2018-18324
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
CentOS-WebPanel.com (aka CWP) CentOS Web Panel 0.9.8.480 has XSS via the admin/fileManager2.php fm_current_dir parameter, or the admin/index.php module, service_start, service_fullstatus, service_restart, service_stop, or file (within the file_editor) parameter.
CVE-2018-18322
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
CentOS-WebPanel.com (aka CWP) CentOS Web Panel 0.9.8.480 has Command Injection via shell metacharacters in the admin/index.php service_start, service_restart, service_fullstatus, or service_stop parameter.
CVE-2018-18323
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
CentOS-WebPanel.com (aka CWP) CentOS Web Panel 0.9.8.480 has Local File Inclusion via directory traversal with an admin/index.php?module=file_editor&file=/../ URI.