Category Archives: Apple

Weekly Security News for the Week Ending December 13, 2019

Apple’s Ad Tracking Crackdown Shakes Up Ad Market

Two years ago Apple decided that since they don’t earn a lot of revenue from ads and Google, their competitor in the phone business, does, wouldn’t it be great to do something to hurt them.  Oh, yeah, we can pretend the real reason we are doing it is to protect the privacy of our users.  Thus was born Intelligent Tracking Prevention.  This makes it much more difficult for advertisers to micro-target Safari users.

The results have been “stunningly effective”, trashing Google and others ad revenue from Safari users (typically affluent users who buy $1,000+ Apple phones, hence a highly desirable demographic) by 60%.  The stats are that Safari makes up a little over half of the US mobile market (Android wallops iPhone worldwide, but there are more users in the US willing to pay a lot of money for a phone).

So it is kind of a win-win.  Apple puts a dent in Google’s revenue and the users get tracked a little bit less.  Source: Slashdot.

 

Apple Releases Fix to Bug That Can Lock Users Out of Their iDevices

Apple users are generally pretty good at installing new releases, but this one fixes a bug that would allow an attacker to create a denial of service attack against any Apple device by sending it a bunch of requests at a speed the device can’t handle.  The bug is in AirDrop, Apple’s file sharing feature.    The good news is that a patch is available, so you just need to install it.  Source: Techcrunch

 

KeyWe Smart Lock is Broke and Can’t Be Fixed

KeyWe is a smart lock for your house.  You can buy it on Amazon for about 150 bucks. And unlock your house from your phone.

But you probably shouldn’t.  Because, apparently, ANYONE can unlock your house from their phone.

Researchers have figured out how to intercept the communications using a $10 Bluetooth scanner and decrypt the communications because the folks that wrote the software thought they knew something about cryptography.

Worse yet – the software in the lock cannot be upgraded.  Ever.  By any method, local or remote.  You get to buy a new lock.

So, as people continue to be infatuated with anything Internet, the crooks say thank you because, as I always say, the S in IoT stands for security (hint: there is no S in IoT).  Source:  The Register

 

Over 1 BILLION Userid/Password Combinations Exposed

There is a bit of good news in this (at the end).   Researchers found a publicly exposed Elasticsearch database on the net that was indexed by the BinaryEdge search engine.  The database contained 2.7 billion email addresses and clear text (unencrypted) passwords for over a billion of them.  The researchers contacted the ISP hosting the database and it was eventually taken offline.  It is not clear who owns the database or what its purpose is.   It looks like it is a collection aggregated from a number of breaches.  The good news is that most of the email addresses are from Chinese domains, so if we want to hack back at China, we have most of their emails and passwords.  Source: Info Security Magazine

New Orleans Hit By Ransomware Attack

In what is at least the third ransomware attack in Louisiana in recent weeks, the City of New Orleans shut down all of its computers, including the City’s official web site in an attempt to contain a ransomware attack.  As of right now, 911 is using their radios in place of computers to manage emergencies.

The city told users to unplug their computers from the network and stop using WiFi in an effort to contain the damage.  They then went from floor to floor to check if people really did that.

A MUCH SIMPLER AND QUICKER WAY TO CONTAIN THE DAMAGE IS TO POWER OFF ALL NETWORK SWITCHES (including the ones that the WiFi routers are connected to).  Doing that eliminates the communications path for the malware.  Once that is complete, you can power off individual computers. Source: NOLA.Com

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Security News for the Week Ending September 13, 2019

Facebook/Cambridge Analytica Suit Moves Forward

Facebook tried to convince a judge that when users share information privately on Facebook they have no expectation of privacy.  The judge didn’t buy it and the suit against Facebook moves forward.  Source: Law.com  (registration required)

Equifax Quietly Added More Hoops for you to get your $0.21

Yes, if everyone who was compromised in the Equifax breach asks for the $125, the total pot, which is only $31 million, will be divided up and everyone will get 21 cents.  Not sure how the courts will handle that when the cost of issuing 150 million checks for 21 cents is tens of millions.  Often times the courts say donate the money to charity in which case, you get nothing.

The alternative is to take their credit monitoring service, which is really worthless if you were hit by one the many other breaches and already have credit monitoring services.

So what are they doing?  Playing a shell game – since the FTC is really a bunch of Bozos.  Equifax is adding new requirements after the fact and likely requirements that you will miss.

End result, it is likely that this so called $575 million fine is purely a lie.  Publicity is not Equifax’s friend, but  it will require Congress to change the law if we want a better outcome. Source: The Register.

End of Life for Some iPhones Comes Next Week

On September 19th  Apple will release the next version of it’s phone operating system, iOS 13.  At that moment three popular iPhones will instantly become antiques.

On that date, the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus will no longer be supported.  Users will not be able to run the then current version of iOS and will no  longer get security patches.

This doesn’t mean that hackers will stop looking for bugs;  on the contrary, they will look harder because they know that any bugs they find will work for a very long time.

As an iPhone user, you have to decide whether it is time to get a new phone or run the risk of getting hacked and having your identity stolen.

What Upcoming End of Life for One Operating Systems Means to Election Security

While we are on the subject of operating system end of life, lets talk about another one that is going to happen in about four months and that is Windows 7.

After the January 2020 patch release there will be no more security bug fixes for Windows 7.

The good news is that, according to statcounter, the percentage of machines running Windows 7 is down to about 30%.

That means that after January, one third of the computers running Windows will no longer get security fixes.

Where are those computers?  Well, they are all over the world but the two most common places?

  1. Countries that pirate software like China, Russia and North Korea
  2. Most election computers, both those inside the voting machines and those managing those machines.

That means that Russia will have almost a year of no patches to voting systems to try and find bugs which will compromise them.

Microsoft WILL provide extended support to businesses and governments for a “nomimal” fee – actually a not so nominal fee.  ($50 per machine for the first year and $100 per machine for the next year with carrots for certain users – see here), but will cash strapped cities cough up the money?  If it is my city, I would ask what their plan is.  Source: Government Computer News

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Security News for the Week Ending September 6, 2019

Cisco: Critical Bug Allows Remote Takeover of Routers

Cisco rated this bug 10 out of 10.  For users of Cisco 4000 series ISRs, ASR 1000 series aggregation routers, 1000v cloud routers and integrated services virtual routers, an unauthenticated user can gain full control just by sending a malicious HTTP request.  So yet another reminder that patching your network gear is critical.  For Cisco, that means having to purchase their maintenance agreement every year.  Source: Threatpost.

USBAnywhere – Especially Places You Don’t Want

Eclypsium announced a vulnerability in the Baseband Management Controller (BMC) in Supermicro motherboards that allow any attacker anywhere, without authorization, to access the BMC chipset and mount a virtual USB device, wreaking all kinds of havoc as you might imagine.  Like stealing your data, installing malware or even disabling the server entirely.  The researchers found 14,000 servers publicly exposed, which is a small number, but as soon as a hacker compromises a single user’s computer anywhere in the enterprise, public equals private – no difference.  Part of the problem is that almost no one knows who’s motherboard is inside their server.  The only good news, if there is any, is that Supermicro has released patches, but you have to figure out if your boards are vulnerable and patch them manually.  Isn’t that exciting?  Source: The Hacker News.

Remember When we Thought iPhones Were Secure?

Apparently that myth is beginning to get a little tarnished.  In fact, Android zero days are worth more than iPhone attacks.  Why?  Because, exploit broker Zerodium says, iPhone exploits, mostly based on Safari and iMessage, two core parts of the iPhone, are FLOODING the market.

I don’t think that users need to panic, but I think that they need to understand that iPhones are computers running software and software has bugs.  All software has bugs.  Practice safe computing, no matter what platform you are using.  Source: Vice.

Unencrypted Passwords from Poshmark Breach For Sale on the Dark Web

When Poshmark put up a information free notice last year that some user information had been hacked (turns out it was 36 million even though they didn’t say so), but that no financial information was taken, so they didn’t feel too bad about it, most people said, another day, another breach.

The 36 million accounts were for sale for $750 which means that even the hacker didn’t think they were valuable.  But now there are reports that one million of those accounts are available with the passwords decrypted, likely at a much higher price.  Does this mean they are working on the other 35 million?  Who knows but if you have a Poshmark account, you should definitely change that password and if the password was used elsewhere, change that too.  Source: Bleeping Computer .

Researchers Claim to Have Hacked the Secure Enclave

CPU makers have created what they call a “secure enclave” as a way to protect very sensitive information in the computer.  Intel calls their feature SGX.  Researchers claim to have created an attack based on Intel’s and AMD’s assumption that only non-malicious code would run in a secure enclave.  If this all proves out, it represents a real threat and reiterates the fact that you have to keep hackers out, because once they are in, nothing is safe.  Source: Bruce Schneier.

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Apple Contractors “Regularly Hear Confidential Details’ on Siri Recordings

Apple uses contractors to listen to Siri recordings to figure out whether Siri responded correctly.  Apple says that these contractors are under non-disclosure agreements and the Siri conversations are not directly tied to the person’s iPhone or Apple credentials.

Still, these people hear about:

  • Confidential medical conversations
  • People having sex
  • Drug deals
  • Other likely illegal activities
  • Business deals

While they grade Siri on it’s responses, they don’t have to grade it on the subject matter of those conversations.

Apple does not specifically disclose that they hire contractors to listen to your requests, but they did not deny it either.  They say only about one person of the conversations per day are reviewed by humans.  Still, that is likely millions of sound bites.  Per day.

You are probably saying why would someone ask Siri a question while having sex?  Well, the short answer is that they do not.  But Siri can get confused and think that you said the activation word when you did not, hence the recordings.

If you have an iPhone or other Siri enabled Apple device around you, you implicitly consent to Apple recording you and humans listening to that conversation sometimes, whether you asked it to or not.  Siri can be activated accidentally, apparently, by the sound of a zipper.  Really?!

Another way that Siri can be activated is if an Apple Watch detects it has been raised, which could easily happen during drug deals. Or during sex.

So lets assume that you are OK with the possibility, maybe even likelihood that Siri may record you in compromising or private situations.

Does that mean that other people in the room are okay with that?  Like your sec partner.  Who may use your name.

Are other people in the room even aware that they are being recorded?

Is that even legal?  Answer: probably not in states that require two party consent, but I am not aware of a court decision yet,

In some companies, you are not allowed to bring your electronic devices into the building.  You may remember that Snowden required reporters to put their iPhones in the refrigerator to block signals to them.

If you are concerned about the confidentiality of a conversation you are having then you need to ask these questions.  Samsung was forced to put a disclosure on their TVs to this effect after a lawsuit.

Remember, it is not your device that you have to be worried about, it is everyone else within earshot that you should be concerned about.

Not only does this include Siri devices, but it includes any other smart device that has the capability to covertly record.

Source: The Guardian

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Phone Apps Collect User Data Even If You Deny Permissions

All smartphones are data collection machines; hopefully everyone understands that.  There are an amazing number of sensors on the device and many apps just ask for everything.  If the user grants that, then the app can harvest all that data and likely sell it, either individually or in the aggregate.

Researchers took a tiny sample of 88,000 apps out of the Android app store (because that is easier than the Apple store) and found that 1,300+ of those apps – or a bit more than one percent – figured out how to circumvent the permission rules.

Some of these apps are mainstream apps.  For example, Shutterfly grabs the GPS coordinates out of your pictures, assuming they are there in the photos.

Does this mean that they are hacking the phone?  No, it means that they have figured out how to finesse  the system.

Another thing that some apps do is look for data other apps leave unprotected on the phone and snarf that data up.  For example, in older versions of Android do not protect individual data on external storage.  If you give an app access to external storage, it can rummage around on that external storage for any data that might be there.

If an app can find the phone’s IMEI number (basically the phone’s serial number) that was retrieved by another app that has permission to do that and which was not protected, then it can tie all of your data to you even if it doesn’t have permission to retrieve your serial number.

With each new release of iOS and Android, the developers of those operating systems implement new controls in an effort to rein in developers who have figured out how to game the system.

Sometimes it is not the app developer who is being deceptive but rather the provider of one or more libraries that the developer integrated into the application.  That means the the app provider could be unwittingly helping out Chinese library developers (yup, that is happening, for reals).

This is not limited to one operating system.  As they say, if the app is free, then you are the product.

As an app developer, you need to understand what each and every library does and if you can’t be sure, you can sniff the network traffic and see what is actually happening.

Source: The Hacker News.

 

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So You Thought Your iPhone Was Secure

The security of all computers is dependent on three things:

  • The Hardware
  • The Operating System
  • The Apps

When it comes to the iPhone, Apple does a great job of making sure the hardware is secure.  The Secure Enclave is the best in the industry and Apple spends a lot of money testing their hardware.  The good news for Apple users is that Apple controls all of the hardware because the make all of it.

The next piece is the operating system.  iOS has a great security reputation and pretty much forces all of the security patches into user’s devices whether they want them or not.

So what is left?

Yes, it is the apps.  Depending on the user and the phone, you could have 50 or a hundred or more apps on your phone.    That’s where the trouble starts.

Security researchers at Wandera evaluated about 30,000 popular apps found in the app store.  They noticed that data was being transmitted unencrypted because app security was turned off.

This seemed odd to the researchers since Apple’s app security framework, called App Transport Security or ATS, is turned on by default.  It comes included as part of Apple’s Swift development platform, so it is no additional work for the developers to use it.

The researchers found that 20,000 of the 30,000 apps had ATS turned off.

Their best guess is that the developers thought, maybe, that encryption would reduce the app’s performance, but on most phones that is not true.

For the last few versions of iOS, Apple even  made it possible for developers to only use ATS when they were transferring sensitive information, but apparently, app developers don’t care.

I think it is fair to say that the state of app security is similar to the state of web site security ten years ago (or older).

The challenge for the end user is that they really have no easy way to tell which apps are secure and which ones are not without being a security expert, which is not reasonable.

Unfortunately, I do not have a silver bullet.  I tend to minimize the number of apps that I have installed as one way to reduce my attack surface.  Maybe not the best answer, but the best one that I have.  Source: Dark Reading.

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