Risk
3/11/2013
01:09 PM
50%
50%

Apple Ups Security For App Store

Apple begins using secure Web pages -- HTTPS -- for all App Store communications, to protect against password theft and other potential problems.

Apple has begun using secure Web pages -- HTTPS -- for all App Store communications. The move mitigated a number of vulnerabilities that attackers could have exploited to steal App Store passwords, force users to pay for unwanted apps or intercept user data.

Apple announced the security change earlier this year, noting that "active content is now served over HTTPS by default" for App Store via its iTunes applications. Apple's security notice credited multiple researchers for alerting it to the vulnerability, including Google researcher Elie Bursztein.

Bursztein said Friday in a blog post that Apple's previous failure to use HTTPS for App Store communications -- except on purchase pages – along with its failure to confirm certain activities and the dynamic manner in which App Store pages get generated left users open to "an active network attack that is able to read, intercept and manipulate non-encrypted (HTTP) network traffic," for example, via unencrypted public Wi-Fi hotspots.

[ What lessons can we learn from the Evernote security breach? Read Evernote Breach: 7 Security Lessons. ]

"Being on the same networks as the victims is all it takes [to facilitate man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks]," he said.

For example, an attacker could have stolen passwords by inserting a fake password-notification prompt into the App Store application update mechanism and swapping a paid app for a free app that a user tried to obtain, thus charging them. Users could also have been tricked into paying for fake app upgrades and been blocked from installing an app either by hiding it from view in the App Store or tricking the user into thinking it was already installed. Finally, Bursztein said the vulnerabilities posed a privacy-leak problem, because "the App Store application update mechanism discloses in the clear the list of the applications installed on the device."

Apple's adoption of HTTPS for all App Store communications follows -- and arguably lags -- similar moves made by Google, which began exploring the use of HTTPS for encrypted search in 2010 and made it the default for all communications with Google services, including Gmail, in 2011. Similarly, Facebook adopted HTTPS by default late last year, as did Twitter.

Last year, Mozilla announced that Firefox would default to the HTTPS version of any website, taking a cue from the HTTPS Everywhere campaign and related plug-in advanced by Electronic Frontier Foundation, which seeks to get more sites to adopt the security offered by HTTPS pages.

Calls for websites to adopt HTTPS increased in the wake of Firesheep, a Firefox plug-in that was released in late 2010 that focused attention on the ease with which traffic being sent across unsecured hotspots -- for example, in many cafes and airports -- could be intercepted. The fix for such attacks was easy: websites needed to enable HTTPS by default, thus adding an encryption layer to all HTTP communications between browser and website.

"Apple, it seems, didn't bother with HTTPS Everywhere, even for its own App Store, until 2013," said Paul Ducklin, head of technology for Sophos in the Asia Pacific region, in a blog post. "Since there's no other place to shop when you're buying or selling iDevice software, and since Apple likes it that way, you might think that Cupertino would have set the bar a bit higher."

How long has Apple's use of HTTP for its App Store put users at risk of being exploited? "I am unsure," Google researcher Bursztein said via Twitter. "I reported it in July [2012], but likely they have been susceptible to MITM for years."

But Bursztein hopes that Apple's adoption of HTTPS for its App Store will lead more developers -- "in particular mobile ones" -- to likewise adopt HTTPS. "Enabling HTTPS and ensuring certificates validity is the most important thing you can do to secure your app communication."

"Please don't let your users down," he said. "Do the right thing: use HTTPS."

Attend Interop Las Vegas May 6-10 and learn the emerging trends in information risk management and security. Use Priority Code MPIWK by March 22 to save an additional $200 off the early bird discount on All Access and Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 300+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology. Register today!

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
moarsauce123
50%
50%
moarsauce123,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/14/2013 | 11:23:47 AM
re: Apple Ups Security For App Store
I think it is more a sign as to how arrogant and ignorant Apple is. It wasn't even an afterthought, it took externals to point that out to Apple. This is the cost of doing business with Apple.
CAgarwala400
50%
50%
CAgarwala400,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 3:09:12 AM
re: Apple Ups Security For App Store
Enterprise adoption of Apple devices will be impacted with this revelation, that Apple has taken so long to meet a basic security criteria.
kjhiggins
50%
50%
kjhiggins,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 2:46:45 AM
re: Apple Ups Security For App Store
I would have thought the App Store was all HTTPS, too. But then again, Macs never get hacked. ;-)

Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading
Drew Conry-Murray
50%
50%
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
3/11/2013 | 11:28:41 PM
re: Apple Ups Security For App Store
I'm really surprised it took Apple this long. Another example of security as an afterthought.

Drew Conry-Murray
Editor, Network Computing
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3971
Published: 2014-12-25
The CmdAuthenticate::_authenticateX509 function in db/commands/authentication_commands.cpp in mongod in MongoDB 2.6.x before 2.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (daemon crash) by attempting authentication with an invalid X.509 client certificate.

CVE-2014-7193
Published: 2014-12-25
The Crumb plugin before 3.0.0 for Node.js does not properly restrict token access in situations where a hapi route handler has CORS enabled, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information, and potentially obtain the ability to spoof requests to non-CORS routes, via a crafted web site ...

CVE-2004-2771
Published: 2014-12-24
The expand function in fio.c in Heirloom mailx 12.5 and earlier and BSD mailx 8.1.2 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via shell metacharacters in an email address.

CVE-2014-3569
Published: 2014-12-24
The ssl23_get_client_hello function in s23_srvr.c in OpenSSL 1.0.1j does not properly handle attempts to use unsupported protocols, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (NULL pointer dereference and daemon crash) via an unexpected handshake, as demonstrated by an SSLv3 handshak...

CVE-2014-4322
Published: 2014-12-24
drivers/misc/qseecom.c in the QSEECOM driver for the Linux kernel 3.x, as used in Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC) Android contributions for MSM devices and other products, does not validate certain offset, length, and base values within an ioctl call, which allows attackers to gain privileges or c...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.