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.

Mobile Security //

iOS

9/25/2018
08:05 AM
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%

iOS 12: How Apple Keeps Getting Mobile Security Wrong

Are iOS updates for suckers? Apple's iOS 12 may represent the latest in a series of flawed releases that could compound user mistrust - further training the company's users to delay updates and patches.

Apple's most recent iOS release and updates to its terms and conditions may represent just the latest perverse disincentives for users -- purporting to keep users more secure while actively contributing to poor security culture.

On September 18 -- one day after Apple released iOS 12 (along with tvOS 12 and watchOS 5) -- VentureBeat broke the story that with those updates came an insidious-looking update to Apple's iTunes Store conditions and privacy agreement. Specifically, a new clause states that Apple will "compute... trust score[s]" for each device based on the number of phone calls and emails users send and receive should they attempt an iTunes purchase.

The terms go on to note that these "scores" will be "stored for a fixed time on [Apple's] servers." Apple defends the moves as an anti-fraud measure new in iOS 12, and further asserts that the trust scores are guarded against reverse engineering -- in other words, that it would not be possible to take the numerical score and work backwards to figure out call or email data. Nonetheless, privacy wardens' hackles have been duly raised by the slipthrough paragraph -- particularly as the popular punditry wonders in print exactly how some of these data points can possibly make users safer against fraud.

Moreover, iOS 12 will be keeping close tabs on user habits not only in the name of anti-fraud handwaving. Two new features of iOS 12 -- "Screen Time" and "App Limits" -- act, in theory, to curb the addictive behavior of those glued to their devices, as the former measures and reports on the amount of time a user spends on particular apps and websites while the latter is used to lock users out of certain apps if they spend too much time on them. The dark side of all of this is that the data gathered by Screen Time promises to be a goldmine to successful intruders -- while App Limits could potentially be used as a form of distributed denial of service (DDoS) by attackers.

Apologists might point to iOS 12's numerous new security features, including (inter alia) custom-length numerical passcodes, a password manager, and USB restrictions. The sad part is, however, that even these features may not be enough to convince users to upgrade -- particularly if they are nonplussed by the significant UI changes.

For these reasons, others who do upgrade may find themselves regretting it.

It wouldn't be the first time. UI-wise, iOS 11 represented a giant middle-finger emoji to those who upgraded. In most default apps in iOS 11, sizable swaths of precious screen real estate became coopted by giant headers (apparently in assumption that iPhone users are too stupid to know that they're looking at their text messages without the word "Messages" in giant bold font at the top of the screen). For privacy-conscious users who had location data turned off, Siri stopped working entirely for voice-directed calls to local businesses listed in users' contacts. And Netflix's original series American Vandal (SPOILER ALERT) gave iOS 11's infamous typing glitch newfound notoriety by making it a plot-turning clue.

And all of this is to say nothing of the performance degradations (purposeful, on Apple's part), software crashes, and double-time-plus battery draining through which iOS 11 users have suffered.

Unsurprisingly, iOS 11's reputation likewise suffered; professional reviewers and regretful consumers alike warned those still on iOS 10 to skip this particular update.

Then came the DevSecOps know-it-alls, prodding and coercing users to update their iOS anyway. It was the InfoSec community, not the Cupertino megacorp, who added insult to injury with their messaging and behavior -- harshly chastising those who pointed out iOS 11's flaws. Their argument against pointing out the emperor's nakedness? That global InfoSec posture would suffer as lay users became convinced to not update their software to the newest (and least tested) version.

Even ignoring iOS 11's plentiful security problems itself, the view is grossly elitist and anti-user. Holier-than-thou security wonks can preach all they want, but they fool themselves when they fail to recognize that, on the whole, users will always gravitate toward whatever works best -- period. (See Uber Loses Customer Data: Customers Yawn & Keep Riding.)

Apple historically has a bad reputation for latent problems in its major iOS releases. The company has thus trained its users to take a wait-and-see approach for every major iOS release. The potential for security and privacy compromises in iOS 12's features only compound the problem.

Consequently, the fault for any security breaches and other problems that arise from its users' natural trepidation against updating falls squarely on Apple's shoulders. Users don't like to be burned.

Related posts:

— Joe Stanganelli, principal of Beacon Hill Law, is a Boston-based attorney, corporate-communications and data-privacy consultant, writer, and speaker. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeStanganelli.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Hacking It as a CISO: Advice for Security Leadership
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 New Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities That Could Put Your Enterprise at Risk
In this Dark Reading Tech Digest, we look at the ways security researchers and ethical hackers find critical vulnerabilities and offer insights into how you can fix them before attackers can exploit them.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-8033
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
In Textpattern 4.5.7, the password-reset feature does not securely tether a hash to a user account.
CVE-2020-15692
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
In Nim 1.2.4, the standard library browsers mishandles the URL argument to browsers.openDefaultBrowser. This argument can be a local file path that will be opened in the default explorer. An attacker can pass one argument to the underlying open command to execute arbitrary registered system commands...
CVE-2020-15693
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
In Nim 1.2.4, the standard library httpClient is vulnerable to a CR-LF injection in the target URL. An injection is possible if the attacker controls any part of the URL provided in a call (such as httpClient.get or httpClient.post), the User-Agent header value, or custom HTTP header names or values...
CVE-2020-15694
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
In Nim 1.2.4, the standard library httpClient fails to properly validate the server response. For example, httpClient.get().contentLength() does not raise any error if a malicious server provides a negative Content-Length.
CVE-2015-8032
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
In Textpattern 4.5.7, an unprivileged author can change an article's markup setting.