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

8/30/2019
12:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Uncovers Massive iPhone Attack Campaign

A group of hacked websites has been silently compromising fully patched iPhones for at least two years, Project Zero reports.

For at least two years, a small collection of hacked websites has been attacking iPhones in a massive campaign affecting thousands of devices, researchers with Google Project Zero report.

These sites quietly infiltrated iPhones through indiscriminate "watering hole" attacks using previously unknown vulnerabilities, Project Zero's Ian Beer reports in a disclosure published late Thursday. He estimates affected websites receive thousands of weekly visitors, underscoring the severity of a campaign that upsets long-held views on the security of Apple products.

"There was no target discrimination; simply visiting the hacked website was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring plant," Beer explains.

Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) found five exploit chains covering nearly every operating system release from iOS 10 to the latest version of iOS 12. These chains connected security flaws so attackers could bypass several layers of protection. In total, they exploited 14 vulnerabilities: seven affecting the Safari browser, five for the kernel, and two sandbox escapes.

When unsuspecting victims accessed these malicious websites, which had been live since 2017, the site would evaluate the device. If the iPhone was vulnerable, it would load monitoring malware. This was primarily used to steal files and upload users' live location data, Beer writes.

The malware granted access to all of a victims' database files used by apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and iMessage so attackers could view plaintext messages sent and received. Beer demonstrates how attackers could upload private files, copy a victim's contacts, steal photos, and track real-time location every minute. The implant also uploads the device keychain containing credentials and certificates, as well as tokens used by services like single sign-on, which people use to access several accounts.

There is no visual indicator to tell victims the implant is running, Beer points out, and the malware requests commands from a command-and-control server every 60 seconds.

"The implant has access to almost all of the personal information available on the device, which it is able to upload, unencrypted, to the attacker's server," he says. It does not persist on the device; if the iPhone is rebooted the implant won't run unless the device is re-exploited. Still, given the amount of data they have, the attacker may remain persistent without the malware.

Google initially discovered this campaign in February and reported it to Apple, giving the iPhone maker one week to fix the problem. Apple patched it in iOS 12.1.4, released on February 7, 2019.

iPhones, MacBooks, and other Apple devices are widely considered safer than their competitors. Popular belief also holds that expensive zero-day attacks are reserved for specific, high-value victims. Google's discovery dispels both of these assumptions: This attack group demonstrated how zero-days can be used to wreak havoc by hacking a larger population.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "'It Saved Our Community': 16 Realistic Ransomware Defenses for Cities."

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
News
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-23347
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
The package github.com/argoproj/argo-cd/cmd before 1.7.13, from 1.8.0 and before 1.8.6 are vulnerable to Cross-site Scripting (XSS) the SSO provider connected to Argo CD would have to send back a malicious error message containing JavaScript to the user.
CVE-2021-25315
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
A Incorrect Implementation of Authentication Algorithm vulnerability in of SUSE SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP 3; openSUSE Tumbleweed allows local attackers to execute arbitrary code via salt without the need to specify valid credentials. This issue affects: SUSE SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 ...
CVE-2021-27921
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
Pillow before 8.1.1 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) because the reported size of a contained image is not properly checked for a BLP container, and thus an attempted memory allocation can be very large.
CVE-2021-27922
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
Pillow before 8.1.1 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) because the reported size of a contained image is not properly checked for an ICNS container, and thus an attempted memory allocation can be very large.
CVE-2021-27923
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
Pillow before 8.1.1 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) because the reported size of a contained image is not properly checked for an ICO container, and thus an attempted memory allocation can be very large.