Feeds

MacBook batteries susceptible to hack attacks

Default passwords raise bricking threat, maybe more

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
SHELLSHOCKED: Fortune 1000 outfits Bash out batches of patches
CloudPassage points to 'pervasive' threat of Bash bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.