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2/28/2007
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Apple Flap Redux

David Maynor goes public at Black Hat DC on his side of the Apple wireless exploit story

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Black Hat DC -- Remember the Apple wireless flap after last year's Black Hat in Las Vegas? Well, one of the researchers in the eye of the storm will finally tell "all" publicly here today in his briefing at Black Hat DC. (See Notebooks Vulnerable to Wireless Attack.)

David Maynor, CTO of Errata Security and a former researcher with SecureWorks, says he will tell attendees here during his Device Drivers 2.0 presentation that he and fellow researcher Jon Ellch did provide Apple with information on bugs in its wireless device driver applications after their Black Hat talk. "We did indeed provide information to Apple," Maynor says. "We did point them to bugs and faults in their [device driver applications]."

Maynor says he not only shared this information with Apple, including packet captures, but he also helped the company build a tool to detect the flaws itself.

"But Apple wanted us to say that MacBook was not vulnerable," he says. Maynor, who is unable to discuss any communication he had with Apple via his SecureWorks email account, also will show slides of copies of email exchanges between him and Apple that back up his newly publicized statements.

"We could have shown bugs in their built-in software, but we did not," he says. "We didn't want to put any Apple users at risk. That's why we demo'ed this with a third-party card [D-Link's] and not in a native card."

Maynor says the bottom line is that there are "lots" of vulnerabilities in wireless drivers from Broadcom, Atheros, and other vendors' gear. "The entire point that Apple lost sight of is that this isn't an Apple problem, but a systemic one across the industry."

Apple was not available for comment at the time this story's posting.

In his talk here today, Maynor will also demonstrate a denial-of-service (DOS) attack using the same device driver exploit he and Ellch had previously revealed, but using a Broadcom wireless driver on a Windows machine. He'll also show how the Mac was vulnerable prior to Apple's patches in release 10.4.6.8, as well as release a DOS zero-day exploit for a D-Link card.

He says he actually found the Apple bugs within a few minutes after firing up a brand-new Apple PowerBook he had purchased. "Before I even touched the keyboard, it had crashed. I already had an Apple bug," he says.

Maynor says because Apple was unable to get the exploit to work internally, he helped them build a WiFi auditing box. And Maynor says he also sent Apple information on other wireless problems, including ones with Bluetooth on a MacBook.

Apple later patched the wireless bugs, but did not credit Maynor or Ellch, he says.

"Apple says they found the bugs on their own. But they had used the box I built for them to find them."

The good news in all this is that in the end, Apple did fix the problems, he says.

Maynor says he's mostly relieved to be able to give more of his and Ellch's side of the story. "I'm calling today VA Day -- Victory over Apple," says Maynor, although says he knows the topic will continue to generate debate and controversy.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)
  • Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR)
  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)
  • D-Link Systems Inc.
  • Errata Security
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

    Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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