Tag Archive for apple

Is Apple’s Monopoly Making Its Security Vulnerable?


It's a well-known fact that Apple’s devices are undoubtedly way safer than any other company’s products, however, in recent research analysis, many reports claimed it to be a myth. 

According to the experts, Apple’s complex process of downloading apps has created a notion of added security but seemingly such is not the case, as revealed in deeper examinations. 

Reportedly, around 2% of the top-grossing iOS apps, are in some way, scams. Customers of several VPN apps, which protect users’ data, have complained against Apple App Store – saying that their devices are contaminated by a virus that tricks them to download and pay for software that they don’t need. 

An illegal QR code reader app that remains for a week on the store tricks users into paying $4.99. Moreover, some apps even mock themselves as being from big global organizations such as Amazon and Samsung. 

Apple always maintained its exclusive command on the App Store and describes this as its policy which is essential for customer’s sensitive personal credentials. Apple has a monopoly in the App market in terms of customer trust. However, some analysts said that this is indeed the biggest problem that there is no competition against this giant in the market, if some companies will come with alternatives then– as a matter of fact – Apple will invest more money in strengthening their security measures. 

“If consumers were to have access to alternative app stores or other methods of distributing software, Apple would be a lot more likely to take this problem more seriously,” said Stan Miles, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada. 

As per the statistics, that Apple generates huge profit from the App store; around 30 percent of its revenue is constituted by the App store. 

Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said in a statement that, “We hold developers to high standards to keep the App Store a safe and trusted place for customers to download software, and we will always take action against apps that pose a harm to users…” 

“…Apple leads the industry with practices that put the safety of our customers first, and we’ll continue learning, evolving our practices, and investing the necessary resources to make sure customers are presented with the very best experience.”

Apple’s Big Sur 11.4 Patches a Security Flaw that Could be Exploited to Take Screenshots

 

Big Sur 11.4 was updated this week to fix a zero-day vulnerability that allowed users to capture screenshots, capture video, and access files on another Mac without being noticed. The flaw lets users go around Apple's Transparency Consent and Control (TCC) architecture, which manages app permissions. 

According to Jamf's blog, the issue was identified when the XCSSET spyware "used this bypass especially for the purpose of taking screenshots of the user's desktop without requiring additional permissions." By effectively hijacking permissions granted to other programmes, the malware was able to get around the TCC. 

Researchers identified this activity while analyzing XCSSET "after detecting a considerable spike of identified variations observed in the wild". In its inclusion in the CVE database, Apple has yet to offer specific details regarding the issue. “The exploit in question could allow an attacker to gain Full Disk Access, Screen Recording, or other permissions without requiring the user’s explicit consent–which is the default behaviour,” researchers said. 

Last August, Trend Micro researchers identified the XCSSET malware after they detected fraudsters introducing malware into Xcode developer projects, causing infestations to spread. They recognized the virus as part of a package known as XCSSET, which can hijack the Safari web browser and inject JavaScript payloads that can steal passwords, bank data, and personal information, as well as execute ransomware and other dangerous functionalities. 

At the time, Trend Micro researchers discovered that XCSSET was exploiting two zero-day flaws: one in Data Vault, which allowed it to bypass macOS' System Integrity Protection (SIP) feature, and another in Safari for WebKit Development, which permitted universal cross-site scripting (UXSS). 

According to Jamf, a third zero-day issue can now be added to the list of flaws that XCSSET can attack. Jamf detailed how the malware exploits the issue to circumvent the TCC.

Avast Security Evangelist Luis Corrons recommends not waiting to update your Mac. “All users are urged to update to the latest version of Big Sur,” he said. “Mac users are accustomed to receiving prompts when an app needs certain permissions to perform its duties, but attackers are bypassing that protection completely by actively exploiting this vulnerability.”

M1RACLES Bug Impacts Apple M1 Chips

 

A security researcher identified the first-ever vulnerability in Apple M1 chips that requires a silicon redesign to fix. The good news is that the flaw is considered low-risk, and even the security researcher who identified it believes the flaw is insignificant and has sought to avoid exaggerating the problem while presenting his findings. 

The vulnerability was codenamed M1RACLES and is presently tracked as CVE-2021-30747. It was discovered by Hector Martin, a software engineer at Asahi Linux, a project that works on porting Linux for Mac devices. 

In a simplified explanation, Martin explained that the vulnerability allowed two apps running on the same device to exchange data via a hidden channel at the CPU level, circumventing memory, sockets, files, and other standard operating system features. While the discovery is notable because of the amount of time, work, knowledge, and proficiency required to find bugs in a CPU's physical design, Martin states that the problem is of no benefit to attackers. 

The only way Martin can see this bug being abused is by dodgy advertising businesses, which could abuse an app they already had installed on a user's M1-based device for cross-app tracking, which would be a really bizarre scenario since the ad industry has many other more reliable data collection methods. 

Even though the M1RACLEs bug violates the OS security model by allowing a CPU process to transfer data to another CPU process over a secret channel, Martin believes the flaw was caused by a human error on Apple's M1 design team. 

“Someone in Apple’s silicon design team made a boo-boo. It happens. Engineers are human,” he said. Martin further added that he has informed Apple of his discoveries, but the firm has yet to clarify whether the flaw will be fixed in future M1 chip silicon versions. Martin revealed and debunked his own findings on a dedicated website that ridiculed similar sites developed in the past to advertise CPU vulnerabilities—many of which, like M1RACLEs, were similarly meaningless and insignificant to people's threat models. 

Martin concludes that exploitation on iOS may be used to overcome privacy protections adding that a malicious keyboard app may act as a keylogger by transferring typed text to another malicious app, which could subsequently transfer the information to the internet. 

However, he suggests that because of Apple's constraints on creating code at runtime, the firm could detect exploit attempts if it subjected App Store submissions to static analysis. The hypervisors disable guest access to the vulnerable register by default, the flaw can be mitigated by utilizing a virtual machine, but there aren't many other solutions, particularly on macOS.

Apple Fixes macOS Zero Day Vulnerability, Abused by XCSSET macOS Malware

 

Apple has released security updates for a variety of its products, including a patch for three macOS and tvOS zero-day vulnerabilities. The patch comprises a zero-day vulnerability fix that has been exploited in the wild for nearly a year by the XCSSET malware gang. 

Apple said it was aware of allegations that the security flaws "may have been actively exploited" in all three cases, but it didn't go into detail about the assaults or threat actors who might have exploited the zero-days. 

WebKit on Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD devices is affected by two of the three zero-days (CVE-2021-30663 and CVE-2021-30665). Webkit is an HTML rendering engine used by Apple's web browsers and applications on its desktop and mobile platforms, including iOS, macOS, tvOS, and iPadOS.Threat actors might use maliciously generated web content to attack the two vulnerabilities, which would allow arbitrary code execution on unpatched devices due to a memory corruption issue. 

The third zero-day (CVE-2021-30713) is a permission issue found in the Transparency, Consent, and Control (TCC) framework that affects macOS Big Sur devices. The TCC framework is a macOS subsystem that prevents installed apps from accessing sensitive user information without asking the user for explicit permission via a pop-up message. A maliciously constructed application could be used to exploit this issue, bypassing Privacy settings and gaining access to sensitive user data. 

While Apple didn't provide much detail about how the three zero-days were exploited in assaults, Jamf researchers found that the macOS zero-day (CVE-2021-30713) patched was leveraged by the XCSSET malware to get beyond Apple's TCC privacy measures. 

According to the researchers, "the exploit in question could allow an attacker to gain Full Disk Access, Screen Recording, or other permissions without requiring the user's explicit consent — which is the default behavior." 

"We, the members of the Jamf Protect detection team, discovered this bypass being actively exploited during the additional analysis of the XCSSET malware, after noting a significant uptick of detected variants observed in the wild. The detection team noted that once installed on the victim’s system, XCSSET was using this bypass specifically for the purpose of taking screenshots of the user’s desktop without requiring additional permissions." 

Trend Micro's Mac Threat Response and Mobile Research teams first detected XCSSET in August 2020. According to the researchers, the vulnerability can be used to provide malicious applications with permissions such as disk access and screen recording. As a result of this, threat actors will be able to take screenshots of affected PCs. 

Last month, Trend Micro discovered a new XCSSET version that was upgraded to work with the newly launched Apple-designed ARM Macs. The CVE-2021-30713 vulnerability was discovered shortly after Craig Federighi, Apple's head of software stated that macOS has an "unacceptable" level of malware, which he linked to the diversity of software sources. 

Apple addressed two iOS zero-days in the Webkit engine earlier this month, allowing arbitrary remote code execution (RCE) on vulnerable devices solely by visiting malicious websites. In addition, Apple has been releasing fixes for a number of zero-day bugs that have been exploited in the wild in recent months, including one that was resolved in macOS in April and a bunch of other iOS vulnerabilities that were resolved in the prior months.  

A Chinese Hacking Competition May Have Given Beijing New Ways to Spy on the Uyghurs

 

In 2019, Apple aimed to reassure its customers when it revealed in a blog post that it had fixed a security flaw in its iOS operating system. According to Apple, the exploited vulnerability was "narrowly focused" on websites with data relevant to the Uyghur community. 

It has since been revealed that the flaw in question was found at China's leading hacking competition, the Tianfu Cup, where a skilled hacker was rewarded for his efforts. The standard procedure would be to notify Apple of the flaw. However, it is said that the violation was kept hidden, with the Chinese government obtaining it to spy on the country's Muslim minority. 

Hacking competitions are a well-established method for technology companies like Apple to identify and address security flaws in their software. However, with state-sponsored hacking on the rise, the possibility that the Tianfu Cup is providing Beijing with new surveillance tools is worrying, particularly given how Chinese competitors have long dominated international hacking competitions. 

When software is compromised, it's usually because an attacker discovered and exploited a cybersecurity flaw that the software provider was unaware of. Finding these flaws before they're discovered by cybercriminals or state-sponsored hackers will save tech firms a lot of money. Until 2017, Chinese hackers took home a large percentage of the Pwn2Own awards. However, after a Chinese billionaire argued that Chinese hackers should "stay in China" because their work is strategic, Beijing replied by prohibiting Chinese people from participating in international hacking competitions.

In 2018, the Tianfu Cup was founded in China. A hacker participating in the Tianfu Cup in its first year created a prize-winning hack called "Chaos." The hack could be used to gain remote access to even the most recent iPhones, making it an easy target for surveillance. After being used in a targeted way against Uyghur iPhone users, Google and Apple both discovered the hack “in the wild” two months later. 

Despite the fact that Apple was able to mitigate the hack within two months, this case demonstrates the dangers of exclusive national hacking competitions, particularly when they take place in countries where people are required to comply with government demands. 

Hacking contests are intended to reveal "zero-day" vulnerabilities, which are security flaws that software vendors haven't discovered or predicted. The tactics used by prize-winning hackers are meant to be shared with vendors so that they can find ways to fix them up. However, keeping zero-day vulnerabilities secret or passing them on to government agencies raises the likelihood of them being used in state-sponsored zero-day attacks. 

In early 2021, Four zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange were used to launch massive attacks against tens of thousands of organizations. Hanium, a Chinese government-backed hacking group, has been linked to the attack. Evidence indicates that cybercriminal gangs are operating closely, and even interchangeably, with state-sponsored hacking groups in Russia and China. 

The Tianfu Cup appears to have given China access to a new talent pool of expert hackers, who are inspired by the competition's prize money to develop potentially dangerous hacks that Beijing would be able to use both at home and abroad.