Feeds

Spyware threat haunts squeaky-clean iPhones

Research finds rogue app privacy risks to regulation models

Seven Steps to Software Security

Apple's line that iPhone users who toe the line and resist any temptation to jailbreak, unlock or otherwise desecrate their smartphone are protected from threats has been called into question by new research.

Swiss iPhone developer Nicolas Seriot has published research on security shortcomings that could create a mechanism for hackers to lift data from regulation iPhones. Email accounts, keyboard entries held in cache and browser history files are all potentially exposed by a malicious app.

Seriot has developed a proof of concept app, called SpyPhone, in order to demonstrate how Apple’s own APIs might be misused to read or edit a user's address book, browse web surfing history, recent GPS position and more.

Attack scenarios detailed by Seriot would rely on tricking Apple into granting approval to a malicious app, a considerable though perhaps not unsurmountable hurdle for hackers.

Apple's reviewers might be fooled by hackers who delayed the activation of their spyware. Payload encryption might also be used to obscure the behaviour of malicious code.

No exploits or third-party APIs would be involved in such a rogue app.

The security researcher detailed the potential iPhone privacy risks he discovered in a talk in Geneva on Wednesday, during which he also outlined possible mobile security defence strategies (summary here (pdf)).

Users should be prompted to authorise read or read-write access to iPhone AddressBooks. Seriot also suggests adding firewall functionality onto the device (but since firewalls need to run in the background all the time this could result in a significant performance hit).

More straightforwardly, Seriot suggests that keyboard cache on iPhones should be a OS service and not so readily available to applications. Wi-Fi connection history ought to be better hidden, he suggests.

Seriot concludes that although iPhone is still more secure than other platforms, sandboxing and AppStore reviews are necessary and ought to be improved. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.