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
Google+
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
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/21/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7121
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
Two memory corruption vulnerabilities in the Aruba CX Switches Series 6200F, 6300, 6400, 8320, 8325, and 8400 have been found. Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities could result in Local Denial of Service of the LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol) process in the switch. This applies to f...
CVE-2020-7122
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
Two memory corruption vulnerabilities in the Aruba CX Switches Series 6200F, 6300, 6400, 8320, 8325, and 8400 have been found. Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities could result in Local Denial of Service of the CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol) process in the switch. This applies to firmwar...
CVE-2020-10687
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
A flaw was discovered in all versions of Undertow before Undertow 2.2.0.Final, where HTTP request smuggling related to CVE-2017-2666 is possible against HTTP/1.x and HTTP/2 due to permitting invalid characters in an HTTP request. This flaw allows an attacker to poison a web-cache, perform an XSS att...
CVE-2020-10714
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
A flaw was found in WildFly Elytron version 1.11.3.Final and before. When using WildFly Elytron FORM authentication with a session ID in the URL, an attacker could perform a session fixation attack. The highest threat from this vulnerability is to data confidentiality and integrity as well as system...
CVE-2020-14365
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
A flaw was found in the Ansible Engine, in ansible-engine 2.8.x before 2.8.15 and ansible-engine 2.9.x before 2.9.13, when installing packages using the dnf module. GPG signatures are ignored during installation even when disable_gpg_check is set to False, which is the default behavior. This flaw le...