Feeds

MacBook batteries susceptible to hack attacks

Default passwords raise bricking threat, maybe more

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Now that Apple has endowed the Mac operating system with state-of-the-art security protections, a researcher has devised new attacks that target the machine's battery.

Charlie Miller, well known for his numerous attacks on iPhones and Macs, may not have achieved his ultimate objective of making a Mac spontaneously combust, but he has figured out how to permanently disable the battery. And in time, he said, it also may be possible to remotely hijack a machine by manipulating the firmware on one of the stored power supply's chips.

"What I found was you can make any change you want to the software that runs on the battery," Miller, who is principal research consultant at security firm Accuvant and the other coauthor of The Mac Hacker's Handbook, told The Reg. "I also saw that you can mess up the chip so it won't function anymore. You can't recover from that. You couldn't even take it to the genius bar."

The flaw making all of this possible is the result of Apple's decision to ship MacBook batteries without changing the passwords needed to run updates or make low-level changes to their embedded controllers. By reverse-engineering past updates, he had no trouble deducing the pass codes.

With these, Miller was able to make changes to the battery firmware that bricked the battery. The hack doesn't sound all that interesting until you consider that any changes will survive a complete reinstallation of the MacBook’s operating system. Miller theorized that if there's a way to cause the firmware to exploit a vulnerability in Mac OS X, his battery hack could open the door to system compromises that persist even after disinfection of reinstallation.

Miller will be presenting his findings at next month's Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. At his talk, he will also release a software tool that patches the vulnerability by changing the default passwords that ship with MacBooks. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.