iPhone: iOS flaw allows hackers to steal photos, messages and passwords

An iOS vulnerability allows an attacker to steal photos, messages, SMS, emails and passwords stored on an iPhone. Identified by a Google researcher, the gap was filled by Apple several months ago.

iPhone iOS
Credit: Przemyslaw Marczynski via Unsplash

In 2018, Ian Beer, engineer of the Project Zero team at Google, discovered several anomalies in the code for an iOS beta update. Unlike its usual practice, Apple was disclosing names of functions and symbols in the core of iOS to developers. While digging through the code, the expert discovered a flaw in Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL), a proprietary technology that allows AirDrop or AirPlay to rely on a direct P2P Wi-Fi connection between two Apple devices.

On the basis of the information recovered, the computer security researcher sought a way to exploit this flaw in the functioning of iOS. And after months of work, Ian Beer managed to use AWDL technology to take remote control of an iPhone connected via WiFi.

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A flaw allows to hijack an Apple protocol

The security breach first allowed Ian Beer “cause the system to stop unexpectedly ”. Concretely, it is able to turn off a smartphone connected to a WiFi network remotely without ever needing physical access. With Raspberry Pi 4B, he also managed to collect photos, messages, emails and all passwords stored in the iCloud keychain. Clearly, he had full access to the device. To prove his point, Ian Beer has released several videos.

“AWDL is enabled by default, and the attack surface includes anyone within radio proximity. With specialized equipment, the radio range can reach hundreds of meters or more ” says Ian Beer. In theory, a seasoned pirate could therefore steal your data remotely by hijacking an Apple protocol. In practice, nothing indicates that the flaw was actually exploited by a hacker.

Anyway, Apple already fixed the security flaw several months ago. Last May, the Cupertino company indeed deployed the iOS 12.4.7 update on iPhones still running iOS 12. Ultimately, only the devices that could not install iOS 13 were affected by the flaw: iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, and iPod touch 6th generation.

Source: Project Zero