Feeds

Hack reveals passwords from locked iPhones and iPads

No passcode required

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.