Feeds

Kit steals Mac login passwords through FireWire port

OS X vulnerable even when locked, FileVaulted

Seven Steps to Software Security

A California software maker has released a program that quickly recovers login passwords from Macs, even when running Apple's completely overhauled OS X Lion, that have been locked, put into sleep mode, or have FileVault disk encryption turned on.

Passware Kit Forensic v11 works by capturing a Mac's computer memory over FireWire and extracting any login passwords that happen to be stored there. The $995 package takes only a few minutes to work, and can also extract passwords stored on a Mac's keychain.

The program from Mountain View, California-based Passware exploits the peer-to-peer characteristic of the FireWire design, which allows any device connected to read and write to any other connected device. As a result, anything stored in a Mac's memory is accessible. The USB protocol, by contrast, generally doesn't share this bidirectional feature, with the exception of a few high-end implementations, said Rob Graham, a noted penetration tester and CEO of Errata Security.

"Hackers have been doing this for a long time," he said, referring to attacks that exploit the p2p nature of FireWire, PCI, and similar interconnects.

Apple has been slowly removing FireWire connections from some of its laptop Macs, and has recently unveiled a new 10Gbit/s interconnect dubbed Thunderbolt. A press release announcing the new Passware kit makes no mention of Thunderbolt, but Graham, who has recently poked holes in the security of the interconnect, said he wouldn't be surprised if it also exposed login passwords stored in memory.

Mac users can foreclose the threat from forensic software by following a two-step process, according to Mac antivirus provider Intego. First, change the default Mac setting so accounts no longer log in automatically at startup. Intego has step-by-step instructions for doing this here. Then, turn off your Mac when it's not being used instead of locking it or putting it to sleep.

Passware's release on Tuesday came the day after Moscow-based Elcomsoft released what it called an "all-in-one" forensic toolkit for iOS devices. A PDF describing the program, which can be used to extract encrypted data stored on iPhones, is here. ®

This article was updated to correct information about how to prevent the attack.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
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
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.