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Apple disappoints at first Black Hat briefing

Rehashes old info and scarpers before question time

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Black Hat 2012 Apple's first Black Hat presentation was one of the most highly anticipated talks at this year's infosec gathering in Las Vegas, but many delegates were left feeling more than a little short-changed.

The conference space for the presentation began filling up early, before the day's keynote with Neal Stephenson had even finished, and it was standing room only by the time Dallas De Atley, manager of the platform security team at Apple, took to the stage.

But all delegates got was a rehash of the iOS security paper Apple released in May, with almost no new information. To add insult to injury De Atley ignored the customary Q&A session and scuttled straight out of the hall once he'd finished his speech.

"This was one of the worst talks I have ever seen at Black Hat. Nothing new, no information and no questions. It was a vendor pitch. Too bad for all the other talks that got rejected because of this," said attendee Moritz Jaeger on the Black Hat Facebook page.

As for the guts of the presentation, De Atley explained how Apple has combined hardware and software to reduce the risk of a successful hack. Each A5 processor has a unique identifier that is fused into the chip which cannot be changed and this is used to authenticate the device with software.

In order to minimize the attack profile Apple has stripped out all unnecessary software from iOS, De Atley said, with all unnecessary tools removed and no remote login support or shell. This was augmented by physically separating the operating system from user data while all third-party applications are loaded into a sandboxed container and can't directly access the operating system.

All third-party applications have must also be approved by Apple, and are monitored both in terms of their installation and also their runtime to avoid any funny business on behalf of the developers.

Apple had plumped for a hardware encryption engine with iOS to save on battery life and processor load he said, and the result was a full AES and SHA supported system that ensured the safety of user's data. The company had designed iOS from the ground up to be secure he said.

"Security is architecture," he said. "You have to build it in from the very beginning. It's not something you can sprinkle over the code at the end." ®

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