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11/10/2014
02:00 PM
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New Attack Method Can Hit 95% Of iOS Devices

Masque Attack replaces legit apps with malware using the same bundle identifier names.

The majority of non-jailbroken iOS devices are vulnerable to an attack method that could replace genuine apps with malware through a bit of application-naming skullduggery. Dubbed a "Masque Attack" by the FireEye researchers who discovered this technique this summer, the attack was described publicly for the first time in a report today.

FireEye had previously held details about the attack methods close to the vest to give Apple time to handle a disclosure made to Cupertino at the end of July. But after examining the WireLurker malware that hit headlines last week, researchers with FireEye found it was using Masque methods and felt it necessary to shed light on a vulnerability that it says affects 95% of iOS devices.

"We consider it urgent to let the public know, since there could be existing attacks that haven't been found by security vendors," they wrote in the report.

Masque works by convincing users to download an app with a tricky name and then using that install to replace a legitimate app with the same bundle identifier name. There are a number of attack implications from this method. First of all, attackers could mimic the original app's login interface to steal credentials and upload them remotely. Secondly, the data under the original app's directory remains in the malware's local directory after the switch, allowing for further data theft. Additionally, an attacker can use the Masque Attack to bypass the app sandbox and get root privileges by attacking known iOS vulnerabilities.

According to FireEye, Masque is particularly dangerous for enterprises for a number of reasons. First of all, apps distributed using enterprise provisioning profiles aren't subject to Apple's review process.

"Therefore, the attacker can leverage iOS private APIs for powerful attacks such as background monitoring and mimic iCloud's UI to steal the user's Apple ID and password," the researchers wrote.

Additionally, Masque is very difficult for enterprises to detect because MDM software can't distinguish malware from legit apps using the same bundle identifier.

"This means that attackers can use spear phishing via email or text message to conduct targeted attacks very effectively against enterprise users," Tao Wei, senior research scientist at FireEye, told Dark Reading. "Because MDM software cannot detect this attack, and until Apple releases a fix for this vulnerability, organizations must educate their employees on the threat spear phishing now poses to their non-jailbroken iOS devices."

Because an attacker can run arbitrary code on the iOS device, malware using the Masque Attack can serve as a stepping stone into the corporate network, Wei warns. "For example, the attacker can potentially harvest email and SMS, which may have two-step login tokens, to get further access to more privileged contents."

FireEye recommends that organizations warn users to protect themselves three ways. One, users shouldn't install apps from third-party sources other than Apple's official store or an enterprise app store. Two, users shouldn't click on install buttons on a pop-up from third-party web pages. Three, if iOS shows an alert with an "Untrusted App Developer" warning, users should click "Don't Trust" and uninstall the app immediately.

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

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SenseCyBlog
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SenseCyBlog,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/26/2014 | 3:39:02 AM
An Increasing Tendency Toward Smartphone-Based Attacks
We have recently seen the development and publishing of hack applications for smartphones on underground forums. Most tools are only available for Android smartphones, and many require root permissions. The most popular tool for cookie theft is DroidSheep. For details visit our blog / follow our twitter account.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
11/12/2014 | 8:13:45 AM
Re: Doesn't make much sense
I don't think you are being cynical at all, @aws0513. Vendors who aren't responsive to issues about the security of their products don't deserve to be in business..
aws0513
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aws0513,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 10:37:51 AM
Re: Doesn't make much sense
My cynicism, in all cases, is on the vendor side of the equation.
In my opinion, all product vendors must be intentionally responsive to any legitimate claims of security vulnerabilities of any kind that are relevant to their products.
AnonymousMan
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AnonymousMan,
User Rank: Moderator
11/11/2014 | 8:49:40 AM
Re: Doesn't make much sense
I guess I'm more cynical than you, or at least in a different way.  I believe the details are left out because they make the attack less practical and relevant to the vast majority of iOS users.  Just like WireLurker.
aws0513
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aws0513,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 8:40:50 AM
Re: Doesn't make much sense
I think the details are left out intentionally in order to prevent copy-cat activites.
However, what I find more disturbing is that Apple has yet (as of this posting) to release any official statement specific to the threat.  Part of me wants to believe that Apple is investigating the claim in detail.
AnonymousMan
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AnonymousMan,
User Rank: Moderator
11/10/2014 | 6:03:37 PM
Doesn't make much sense
how does one pull down apps from 3rd parties on an iPhone that is not jailbroken?  I'm confused about how this attack would work in reality, and it seems to me the FireEye is leaving out some important details.  
aws0513
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aws0513,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2014 | 3:26:54 PM
Re: Protection is vital
Other than the three recommendations noted in the last paragraph, not much more can be done.
The first point in the recommendations crucial.  As long as users are not pulling down apps from 3rd party sources, the risk is likely mitigated.  For many organizations, it looks like there should be little "pants on fire" reaction as long as they have a good handle on how their users use the iOS devices that they manage.

To me, the bigger concern would be with end users and organizations that are not aware of this attack.  This concern is especially enhanced for organizations that have embraced BYOD for iOS devices on a broad scale.
SecOpsSpecialist
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SecOpsSpecialist,
User Rank: Moderator
11/10/2014 | 2:35:37 PM
Protection is vital
So I'm going to ask the million dollar question that is probably swimming through everyone's mind as they read this: How do we protect against it?

Obviously in a non-commercial environment, it is easier because we as consumers can easily put protection on our phones, laptops etc to prevent this kind of thing. But, for the commercial environment, how would a business go about protecting its end users and so on?
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