Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

11/29/2017
11:00 AM
Connect Directly
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.  
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-11619
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-07
FasterXML jackson-databind 2.x before 2.9.10.4 mishandles the interaction between serialization gadgets and typing, related to org.springframework.aop.config.MethodLocatingFactoryBean (aka spring-aop).
CVE-2020-11620
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-07
FasterXML jackson-databind 2.x before 2.9.10.4 mishandles the interaction between serialization gadgets and typing, related to org.apache.commons.jelly.impl.Embedded (aka commons-jelly).
CVE-2020-11509
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-07
An XSS vulnerability in the WP Lead Plus X plugin through 0.98 for WordPress allows remote attackers to upload page templates containing arbitrary JavaScript via the c37_wpl_import_template admin-post action (which will execute in an administrator's browser if the template is used to create a page).
CVE-2020-6647
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-07
An improper neutralization of input vulnerability in the dashboard of FortiADC may allow an authenticated attacker to perform a cross site scripting attack (XSS) via the name parameter.
CVE-2020-9286
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-07
An improper authorization vulnerability in FortiADC may allow a remote authenticated user with low privileges to perform certain actions such as rebooting the system.