Feeds

Hack reveals passwords from locked iPhones and iPads

No passcode required

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Researchers have devised a method for stealing passwords stored on locked iPhones and iPads that doesn't require cracking of the device's passcode.

The technique, disclosed on Thursday by members of the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, requires physical access to the targeted iPhone or iPad, so remote attacks aren't possible. But it takes less than six minutes and carry out, and the after effects are easy to conceal, making it ideal to carry out on devices that are lost, stolen or temporarily unattended.

The hack exploits cryptography in the iOS password management system – known as keychain – that uses a secret key that is completely independent of the device's passcode. That saves attackers who manage to access the file system the hassle of deducing a key that's based on a passphrase set up by the user.

“After using a jailbreaking tool, to get access to a command shell, we run a small script to access and decrypt the passwords found in the keychain,” the researchers wrote in a paper (PDF). “The decryption is done with the help of functions provided by the operating system itself.”

The script also reveals always-encrypted account settings for things like user names and server addresses for all stored accounts, as well as the account clear-text secrets. The hack worked on a locked iPhone 4 running iOS 4.2.1, which was the most current firmware version at time of writing. A demo of the attack is available on YouTube - you can view it below.

“The accessibility of keychain secrets without requiring the passcode is considered a result of a trade-off between system security and usage convenience,” the researchers wrote. “The passwords for network related services should be available directly from device startup, without having to enter the passcode first.”

The technique doesn't retrieve passwords stored in parts of the device that remain off limits until the passcode is entered.

Still, the hack can reveal a wealth of sensitive codes, including those used for virtual private networks, Wi-Fi networks, LDAP accounts, voicemail systems and Microsoft Exchange accounts. And that's likely to spook large business customers with employees that use the devices to connect to sensitive company systems. ®

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs
BadUSB instructs gadget chips to inject key-presses, redirect net traffic and more
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?