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Hackers lay claim to exploit that defeats iPhone anti-theft tools

Dutch duo say they have thwarted remote locking mechanisms

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A pair of security researchers claim to have found a flaw which could allow an attacker to remove security measures on lost or stolen iPhones.

Dutch researchers "AquaXetine" and "Merruktechnolog" were credited in a report from De Telegraaf as exploiting a "man in the middle" flaw that tricks a stolen iOS device into connecting with a local machine masquerading as an Apple server.

By targeting the flaw, the hackers can transmit instructions to the device and pull information including AppleID credentials. With the stolen credentials in hand, an attacker would then be able to disable any remote locking or wipe mechanisms, which can be activated for stolen and lost devices.

The researchers say they first spotted the flaw five months ago and that after researching the issue they reported it to Apple in March, though they have yet to hear back from the company.

The ability to defeat the remote locking features would be a useful trick to thieves and groups looking to resell stolen devices on the secondhand market.

Security researcher and blogger Graham Cluley noted that even with an apparent workaround to the anti-theft tools available, users should implement Apple's anti-theft and remote security features on their iPhones and iPads.

"Just because some hackers might have found a way around that element of the protection doesn’t mean that the vast majority of phone thieves would have a clue how to go about it," Cluley said in a post for Mac security firm Intego.

The report comes as governments and law enforcement groups continue to push vendors for the inclusion of "kill switch" mechanisms on handsets. Much like Apple's feature, the proposed systems would be able to remotely render a stolen device inoperable by the thief, thus tanking resale value and hopefully cutting down on crime. ®

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