Feeds

Apple kills code-signing bug that threatened iPhone users

Hacker who discovered it remains excommunicated

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Apple has patched a serious bug in iPhones and iPads that allowed attackers to embed secret payloads in iTunes App Store offerings that were never approved during the official submission process.

Charlie Miller, who is principal research consultant at security firm Accuvant, was kicked out of the iOS developer program on Tuesday after demonstrating the danger posed by the weakness. The InstaStock title that he wrote and was accepted into the app store in September billed itself as nothing more than a program to track the share prices of publicly traded companies. But behind the scenes, it bypassed protections built into iOS devices that prevent code from running on them, unless it's signed by Apple's official cryptographic seal.

As a result, InstaStock allowed Miller, who is the other coauthor of The Mac Hacker's Handbook, to surreptitiously spy on anyone who installed the app. Just hours after he disclosed the secret functionality – and the bug that made it possible – Apple excommunicated him from the developer program, making him ineligible to test the security of new products before they are released to the public.

On Thursday, about 48 hours after Miller exposed the threat, Apple said it had closed the security hole in iOS 5.0.1.

“A logic error existed in the mmap system call's checking of valid flag combinations,” the advisory said. “This issue may lead to a bypass of codesigning checks.” The threat had existed since the release of iOS 4.3.

Code signing represents a significant barrier to getting malicious apps on iPhones and iPads that haven't been jailbroken. It prevents code from running on the devices unless it has been digitally signed by Apple officials, and it also stops developers from modifying the app after the fact. It is perhaps the single biggest security distinction between iOS and Google's rival Android operating system.

Miller was able to circumvent code signing after he discovered an exception that was introduced in iOS 4.3 that, for the first time, created a small region in iPhones and iPads where unsigned code downloaded from the internet could be executed. The exception was designed to improve the performance of Safari by allowing it to do just-in-time compiling.

Thursday's iOS update also includes fixes for at least four other security threats, including a flaw that allowed locked iPad 2 devices to be opened without entering a passcode. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.