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Security Businesses Communications Handhelds Apple Hardware

Security Flaw Found That Allows Control of iPhone 176

Posted by Zonk
from the there's-always-a-catch dept.
i_like_spam writes "The NYTimes is running a story about an iPhone flaw that has been found and documented by researchers from Independent Security Evaluators. Attackers were able to gain full control of the iPhone either through WiFi or by visiting a website with malicious code. The exploit will be demonstrated at BlackHat on Aug. 2nd at 4:45pm. Until then, 'details on the vulnerability, but not a step-by-step guide to hacking the phone, can be found at www.exploitingiphone.com, which the researchers said would be unveiled today.'"
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Security Flaw Found That Allows Control of iPhone

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  • Excellent! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:10AM (#19954003) Journal
    Now users of the iPhone can control their own device!

    Of course, the down side is that so can everyone else...

    • by Xiph (723935)
      I guess that's a trick that's usable by all that requires signed code.
      Find a weakness in something that's signed, and have that execute your code.

      Makes me think about the dvd player in my kitchen.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Firehawke (50498)
        That's how they broke the PSP's protection, by finding holes in already signed code.
    • by thedeadswiss (573599) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:25AM (#19954073)
      Perhaps they should rename it yourPhone.
    • Maybe Duke [miamobi.com] can use this exploit to shut off iPhones before they bring their entire wireless network to its knees this fall.

      I cannot image the hole will last long or anyone will really care all that much. I've seen a number of exploits demonstrated to hack into bluetooth enabled phones and do malicious things like delete contact lists. This is only a hot story because of the phone's popularity.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        They already admitted that the problem wasn't with the iPhone, but Cisco's routers. I found the whole thing kind of funny.:

        Dan: Our network is flaking out then crashing. We need to find the problem before the Spring semester kicks in and we're really in trouble.
        George: Hmm, the iPhone just came out the other day. I doubt that's a coincidence, it must be a faulty product.
        Dan: Are you sure? I haven't heard about any of these issues on other campuses or companies. I think we should look into this further.
      • by LKM (227954) on Monday July 23, 2007 @08:20AM (#19954917) Homepage

        Yeah, I can see how you're confused, because all the news outlets reporting about how the iPhone destroyed Duke's network did not bother to report that it was all made-up crap.

        Last week: [macworld.com]

        "I don't believe it's a Cisco problem in any way, shape or form."

        This week: [duke.edu]

        Cisco worked closely with Duke and Apple to identify the source of this problem, which was caused by a Cisco-based network issue. Cisco has provided a fix that has been applied to Duke's network and there have been no recurrences of the problem since.

        Maybe at least /. could bother to retract the story?

        Nah, who cares, it's just your usualy weekly Apple bashing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by twiggy (104320)
      What I find most interesting about this is that it lends much more faith to the argument that viruses, trojans and security exploits show up not because a device or operating system is necessarily less secure, but because there's a big enough target audience to make it "worth doing."

      Mac zealots have long argued that windows sees way more viruses / malware and therefore macs are more superior.

      The truth is that all devices and operating systems are hackable - it's motivation to do so that's required, and a la
      • Re:Excellent! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:36PM (#19961255)
        "Large userbase" of approximately one or two million iPhones? In a market with hundreds of millions of handsets (billions if you count the whole world)? Two million iPhones compared to 30 million Macs in the US? Compared to tens of millions of Unix machines?

        Userbase isn't what makes a target "big." It's potential media exposure. The iPhone hype makes it a key target. The closed nature of the iPhone means lots of talented people are trying to break in. The iPhone, moreover, probably isn't as secure as a desktop computer. It's not designed to be open and from what I understand about this particular hack, it builds on previous "doors" which can easily be closed. It's not surprising that once you've gained access to a device, you'll be able to manipulate it (particularly when they're all configured with the same username and password).

        There's plenty of media attention given to every half-assed attempt to break OS X. So far, nothing worth losing sleep over. You don't think that the media attention for OS X would be worth the payoff? Linux might have some protection because it's somewhat obscure and not mainstream--but while it might not show up on CNN, people here certainly would take note, and so would large corporations using Linux servers.
  • Rut roh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:18AM (#19954037)
    Sounds like someone's going to be getting Apple Fanboy death threats tonight....
    • by arivanov (12034)
      There is an easier way to do that.

      Instead of looking for exploits just suggest that Steve Jobs and JK Rawlins should marry as this will be a meeting of alike souls. Extra bonus points could have been had for doing that on Saturday, 21st of July 2007 (provided that you had enough ammo to defend yourself after that).

      Though, the magic day has passed, this is still a good treat if you want to observe how an otherwise normal looking person suddenly morphs into something out of a nightmare horror movie.
    • by Odin's Raven (145278) on Monday July 23, 2007 @08:58AM (#19955401)

      Sounds like someone's going to be getting Apple Fanboy death threats tonight....

      I can see the commercials now...

      Mac and PC walk in from opposite sides of the screen. Mac is dressed as a ninja - custom-tailored silks, authentic-looking swords, the works. PC wears his typical clothes, but in a disheveled fashion reminiscent of Michael Douglas in "Falling Down", complete with briefcase in one hand and machine gun in the other. (Although it's painfully obvious that PC's "gun" is a cheesy plastic model acquired from the local toy store.)

      • Mac: Hi, I'm a Mac Fanboy death threat.
      • PC: And I'm a PC Fanboy death threat.
      • Mac: The other day someone claimed an Apple product was less than perfect.
      • PC: Every day people say I'm no good. Every...damn...day.
      • Mac: I hear ya, PC. In my case, I've assembled a multimedia production based around video clips taken while discretely stalking the person responsible, as text seamlessly scrolls past detailing the inherent superiority of the product in question and Mozart's "Dies Irae" from his "Requiem in D minor" plays in the background. (Pulls out iPhone and shows to PC - we catch glimpses of the movie and hear a snippet of music.)
      • PC: I have a powerpoint slide I send the offending party. (Opens briefcase and pulls out a tattered piece of paper, hands to Mac).
      • Mac: (Reading paper) Hmmmm, "U r a lozer and yu is teh suckz. Im gona hurtz u 4 ur makking fun of me. Micrsfort rulez!" Yes, that should certainly make an impression. Nice use of the WingDings font for the dagger.
      • PC: Thank you. Some people think I'm limited to boring text, but I do have access to some pretty snazzy graphics.
      • Mac: Yes, I've never seen anything quite like it. Oh well, I'm off to infiltrate the home of the person who offended me, silently scaling the outside wall, entering through an open skylight, and performing a triple-backflip as I drop to the floor, where I'll leave my threat nestled in a bouquet of lotus flowers.
      • PC: (Rolls eyes, clearly unimpressed.) Whatever. I'm going to catch the midtown bus, and nail my threat to the person's front door. And if they give me any lip, I've got this!
      • (PC brandishes toy gun, pulls trigger. Gun plays a few seconds of 80s-era laser sounds, which trail off as the batteries die.)
      • PC: Darn, why does this always happen? Now I've got to get a new weapon.
      • Mac: Do you want to call a few places, see what's in stock? (Offers iPhone to PC)
      • PC: Thanks, I ... (starts to reach for iPhone, changes mind.) Ummm, no, actually I'm good. Everything's just fine. Okay, gotta go.
      • (PC shuffles dejectedly offscreen. Mac watches PC leave, then does a backflip out of frame.)
  • by nmoog (701216) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:26AM (#19954077) Homepage Journal
    Have a read of the technical paper [securityevaluators.com] from the article - Quite interesting. They used fuzzing to find a heap overflow vulnerability. They go on to talk of "Blackbox Exploitation", which I later realise has nothing to do with the cinematic genre.
    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday July 23, 2007 @07:05AM (#19954291)

      Most interesting pieces of information from the article:

      Additionally, no address randomization was used in by the operating system.

      the filesystem accessible to iTunes is chroot'ed such that only a small set of the filesystem is visible over this [USB] connection.

      it is possible to modify the iPhone in such a way that the applications will dump core files when they crash. This is accomplished by adding the file /etc/lauchd.conf containing the line limit core unlimited to the iPhone using iPhoneInterface. Core files can be retrieved off the iPhone from the /cores directory, again using iPhoneInterface.

      Under their suggestions:

      Install applications such that they run as an unprivileged user. This would result in a successful attacker only gaining the rights of this unprivileged user.

      I don't see how that'd help on a single-user computer., tho (another of their suggestions) chrooting all the running apps would be a step in the right direction. The researchers are politicians, too:

      This limited access to the filesystem doesn't particu- larly serve a security role from the perspec- tive of a remote attacker. Instead, this serves as an example of design intended to protect the exclusivity of the iPhone to AT&T. If more thought had gone into protecting the applica- tions from remote attack and less on prevent- ing the unlocking of the device, the overall security of the device might have improved.

      Translation: Running iTunes in a chroot jail makes the iPhone insecure, because my unicorn says anything done for the sake of AT&T is insecure.

    • by Teckla (630646)

      They used fuzzing to find a heap overflow vulnerability.

      As someone who has spent a few decades programming computers in the C programming language (with a sprinkle of C++ and Objective-C), even I have to admit it's probably time to increasingly retire low level programming languages that are prone to these kinds of exploits (buffer overflows).

      I wonder if there are "safer" languages than C with similar performance and memory usage characteristics.

      • by ThosLives (686517) on Monday July 23, 2007 @07:54AM (#19954655) Journal
        <rant>

        *sigh* I hate this argument.

        Why not just disallow anyone not capable of not programming a buffer overflow from ever programming a device? It's not a language issue. I'm sure that unqualified folks will figure out how to cause all sorts of new vulnerabilities in "safe" languages. (Hint: there is no such thing as a "safe" language.)

        I guess maybe I'm just in the "old school" camp that thinks that unqualified people shouldn't be allowed to do things. There's a reason why, for instance, amateur carpenters aren't allowed to construct public buildings.

        Maybe we should actually require people to be licensed programmers...while that would weed out some of the problem, though, we all know that professional engineering licenses or whatever don't guarantee competence...

        </rant>

        • You can't just say, "Only super-leet programmers should be allowed to program C, because we never make mistakes."

          First off, it's not true. Even experienced programmers make mistakes, and I've had issues where the API I was writing to was incomplete, and my implementation and the other guys implementation were just different enough that, in the right circumstance, you could have a problem. That stuff happens. It's always going to happen.

          Second, in my experience, no C programmer ever thinks that they make these mistakes, it's always crappy programmers from somewhere else. At some point, you have to own up to the fact that it's a problem of the language and that, as long as you use the language, you're going to have the problem.

          Now, if we could find something that ran with the performance curve of well programmed and tuned C, but without C's baggage of errors, leaks, and overflows, this would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, that language does not exist, and hardware hasn't gotten to a level yet to make language performance irrelevant for consumer applications.

          So we have to put up with C's issues. But if a new language is developed, or if processors keep increasing, the day will come when C will join Fortran as one of those languages that really only academics need to know, and it's because of crap like this.
          • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:38AM (#19955903)

            Your post highlighted all the dangers of ad-hoc programming.

            Personally, I've seen a lot of "experienced" C programmers but only met a few good C programmers. I don't blame the language, instead I blame the programmer who gives into temptation and think they could just quickly code an application on-the-fly without any planning. A decent analogy would be that while a large number of people are familiar with the english language, only a small percentage of them can write a decent novel.

            I am a C/C++ programmer, and I believe that I am capable of making even the dumbest mistakes when coding (especially during an exceptionally long programming session). This is why I test! I make my unit tests with the intent of making sure my procedures error out correctly, as well as verifying that it works correctly. I put special effort in data objects that are prone to buffer allocation errors.

            I also design the overall program ahead of time, define the interfaces between modules, and go over expected application behavior with the test engineer.

            I go through this because (1) the only true way to make quality software is to put forth the effort to design, test, and maintain the code from the beginning, and (2) I never expect any language to handle errors correctly.

            Number 2 is important, since even if a higher language does handle out-of-bounds conditions, does it handle it in a way that doesn't cause a problem somewhere else in the data chain?

            For (off-the-top of my head) example, if I had a string buffer that automatically grew to 518 bytes to handle an erroneous data entry and it stored it in a database record that only held 512 bytes, does it truncate the data or does it posts a warning. Remember this error wasn't caught by the programmer, so are we to assume that the programmer would check for this error when it came time to place it in the database? Or what if the application simply threw an out-of-bounds exception? If it wasn't tested for this in production, then this means it could happen in the field. In my line of business, it must be caught in production.

            The reason *I* use C and C++ is because I need the speed that comes from not having the language doing all my thinking for me. If *you* think C has issues then maybe *you* need to use another language more appropriate for your requirements and your skill set. BTW, my colleagues would have issues about your Fortran comment too!

            I am not saying C/C++ is the best language for every situation. I am just saying that I use C/C++ because of performance and space requirements. I am also saying that no high level language is a good substitution for good programming practices.

            The issues related to this story require even more effort in testing. We are not trying to catch simple runtime errors, we are trying to prevent someone who has the intent to break the security of a program. This falls outside of the realm of high level languages even with the issue that caused this particular "breach."

            For (another off-the top of my head) example, even the best programs can fall victim to a compromised configuration file. So effort must be made to give an application the minimum amount of security privileges necessary to do its task *and* make sure that the configuration files are not modifiable without higher privileges.

            • I am also saying that no high level language is a good substitution for good programming practices.


              In many situations, higher-level languages reduce the cost of "good programming practices" by reducing the number of specific concerns that need to be addressed in a program designed for a given task, compared to C or C++.

              They are not intended as a substitute for good practice, nor has anyone that I have seen suggest them as a substitute.
            • by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:43PM (#19961327)
              Very methodical and commendable programming practice you have there.

              Now, not trying to be snarky or anything, honestly, but how often do you find that you run out of time on projects? Do you ever find that being so careful in your coding means that you get hounded for being late or behind schedule?

          • You do realize that C's flaws are inherenet to C's strengths?

            C is essentially a portable assembler. For C to function as it should, it needs to be able to do potentially bad things.

            I've not seen one (usable) operating system not written in an "unsafe" language. Because eventually, we must get down there.
            • I'm not disputing that C has its strengths. The problem is its weaknesses cause problems all the time. While ideally we would have super-tight, super-quick code everywhere to squeeze the most out of our hardware, you have to ask yourself whether it is or isn't worth it to be dealing with the inevitable buffer overflows.

              There are places where performance demands C, where the inevitable buffer overflow patch cycle is an acceptable trade off for speed. But there are a lot of other places where it's not the bes
              • I'm not even going for the performance argument. I'm basically going for the necessity argument. C exists because it is the easiest way to write a portable operating system. That is exactly what it was designed for.

                For applications, there are many better choices than C. Python with wxWidgets and Java if you want reasonable cross compatibility, C# if you don't mind the monoculture associated with it, etc.

                C needs to be able to access memory the way it does because sometimes memory just has to be memory. And I
        • by LKM (227954)

          Why not just disallow anyone not capable of not programming a buffer overflow from ever programming a device?

          Because then nobody would ever program a device.

        • Here's a tip: Your rant would be easier to follow if you failed to not use less negatives.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by VGPowerlord (621254)
            For example: "Why not just disallow anyone not capable of not programming a buffer overflow from ever programming a device?"

            would be easier to read as
            "Why not just disallow anyone who has a history of programming buffer overflows from ever programming a device?"
            although that changes the meaning slightly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Teckla (630646)

          Why not just disallow anyone not capable of not programming a buffer overflow from ever programming a device?

          Because that's not realistic.

          It's not a language issue. I'm sure that unqualified folks will figure out how to cause all sorts of new vulnerabilities in "safe" languages.

          If you were to group bugs into two categories, "buffer overflow bugs" and "other bugs", the C programming language makes it possible for developers to code both kinds of bugs. If, by using a safer programming language, you can at least eliminate "buffer overflow bugs", why wouldn't you want to do that?

          (Hint: there is no such thing as a "safe" language.)

          (Hint: I never said there was such a thing as a "safe" language. I said "safer".)

          I guess maybe I'm just in the "old school" camp that thinks that unqualified people shouldn't be allowed to do things. There's a reason why, for instance, amateur carpenters aren't allowed to construct public buildings.

          Yeah, right. That'll happen, right after every little girl on the planet gets her very o

          • Most buffer overflow bugs are very easy to spot. There are some simple habits you can get in to and you won't have them. Or you could use an ABI feature like OpenBSD's stack-smashing protection that eliminates stack-based buffer overflows, leaving you with just heap-based ones to worry about (and those are much more rare, harder to exploit, and harder to write unless you are doing something obviously stupid).

            That said, I'd still pick Objective-C, and use NSString rather than C strings directly and live w

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              Most buffer overflow bugs are very easy to spot.

              No, most buffer overflows not caused by inexperienced programmers are hard to spot. I found one in a piece of code I wrote that took quite a long time to track down. It expressed itself as a malloc warning on free... one execution out of a thousand or so. Turns out one malloc call was allocating a buffer that was one byte too small due to an off-by-one math error while doing some heavy-duty string manipulation. (No, it wasn't the NULL that I didn't ac

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GooberToo (74388)
        These failings are generally not a core issue with the programming language. Lazy or inexperienced programmers, lack of budget, and wide spread ignorance seem to lead the way with these types of issues. Then there are the problems caused by arbitrary release dates (get it done, we'll fix it later) and the total indifference of those which make the release decisions. Changing the language, at best, is attempting to hide the root cause.

        • But if these problems can be largely fixed at the language level, then it is indeed a core issue with the programming language, no?
          • by GooberToo (74388)
            If these problems can be fixed by people taking software development serious, then it is indeed a core issue with people, no? ;)

            Considering most languages these days (include C/C++; C++ much more so) already have facilities available to avoid most of these pit falls, I do not believe your comment has legs. Let's be honest here, the a huge chunk of these problems pop up because of complete indifference to the problems at hand. In these "safer" languages, different types of problems become more common, simp
            • If these problems can be fixed by people taking software development serious, then it is indeed a core issue with people, no? ;)

              Fixing the language requires one thing to change, fixing the people requires an ungodly amount of changes.

              And the problem with the "the languages have these facilities already" argument is that those facilities are not available as the default and are rarely used even when they would be essentially transparent. Make it so one has to expend effort to turn the safety features off, r
              • by GooberToo (74388)
                Just as security is a process, so is programming. No change in language is going to cure a bad programmer. Period. Sure, a buffer overflow may now be addressed but they will simply be replaced with other critical bugs. This is the nature of inexperienced and low-end programmers.

                To be clear, I believe languages like perl and python, so on and so on, are simply great! But I've seen some real crappy and buggy code which enables completely arbitrary execution of native perl, python, and even allowed SQL in
                • No. I'm suffering from the reality that there aren't enough "good" coders to fill all the necessary coding positions. You simply aren't going to have quality professionals at every keyboard. So why not eliminate the types of errors that a compiler/runtime can easily eliminate to keep the inevitable mass of lesser programmers (and occasional slip ups from the quality programmers)? Using a language with these features (and hopefully we'll see mare advanced features like dependent types make it into widesp
                  • by GooberToo (74388)
                    Why the resistance using a seatbelt *and* and airbag?

                    On a bicycle?

                    And why do you assume that an eliminated bug will necessarily be replaced by a different bug?

                    Because the lack of experience and general knowledge is often the cause of poor design which creates flaws by design or poor implementation. The later, if not creating a problem here will create a problem there.

                    The reality is, owning a screw driver does not make you a better mechanic. Owning an electric screw driver does not make you a better mechan
                    • by Vancorps (746090)

                      I dunno, the problem with analogies is that they are always wrong.

                      You're good mechanic may have diabetes causing his hands to shake. If he uses a manual screwdriver it will take him all day to finish a project. Give him the electric and he's done in seconds. Sounds to me like a good thing.

                      You're right that the tool is no replacement for a qualified professional but the tools can enable the person to do more in less time without having to worry about the small stuff they can move forward and start worryi

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Yeah, C is still too hard for everyone except maybe 5 people in the world? Just a single scerw up and "attacker can execute arbitrary code of his/her choice". If you write in a safe language if you screw up bad things still happen, but it takes extra effort to do the "arbitrary code thing" ( e.g. SQL injection is harder in a safe language with safe libs - since the easy method is a safe method: use prepared statements and bound variables).

        What has amazed me is the x86 only has one stack that's used by many
      • I wonder if there are "safer" languages than C with similar performance and memory usage characteristics.

        Take a look at D [digitalmars.com]. It's basically C++ with a first class String object and garbage collection, plus a few other nice things borrowed from various languages. It's performance characteristics seem to be on par with C and C++, but it has most of the nice bits from Java and C# as well.

  • As a loyal Mac user and iPhone user I have to kill you.

    Signed,
    Mac Zealot

    My life for Aiur!....errr Steve Jobs!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      [as I dowse myself with gasoline] It's all for you, Steve! IT'S ALL FOR YOU!!!
  • Update Deployment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by da_matta (854422) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:53AM (#19954207)
    It's interesting to see what the response to this will be and how long it will take to for Apple to to release and deploy a patch. Mobile phones don't typically the "fast background patching"-systems like PC's (mobile data typically costs so you can't keep checking for updates). And everyone remembers from "pre sp2"-XP what it means if it's up to the user to check and deploy patches (e.g. iTunes).
    • Re:Update Deployment (Score:5, Informative)

      by jrumney (197329) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:57AM (#19954231) Homepage
      iPhone patches will be delivered automatically through iTunes, the same way iPod ones are. So while you won't get them OTA, it is still better than most cellphones which require you to go out and find patch installers, and in some cases these can only be obtained from official servicing agents, not over the web.
      • by Firehed (942385)
        Let's not forget that there's OS X underneath as well, which is certainly more patchable than most phone operating systems. Which is probably for the better, as it'll be one of the most-targeted phones given its initial popularity and notoriety. Plus, we can probably assume that any OS X exploits found, or at least for Safari, would exist on Macs and iPhones alike.
        • by suv4x4 (956391)
          Let's not forget that there's OS X underneath as well, which is certainly more patchable than most phone operating systems. Which is probably for the better, as it'll be one of the most-targeted phones given its initial popularity and notoriety. Plus, we can probably assume that any OS X exploits found, or at least for Safari, would exist on Macs and iPhones alike.

          I dare you explain why would OSX be more patchable than other phone operating system.

          And if you start explaining it's because they based it off o
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        iPhone patches will be delivered automatically through iTunes, the same way iPod ones are. So while you won't get them OTA, it is still better than most cellphones which require you to go out and find patch installers, and in some cases these can only be obtained from official servicing agents, not over the web.

        Reminds me of the Flash 2004 fiasco - see, they didn't have time to actually finish the documentation. So they thought: we'd just spend less time on making it super easy to UPDATE the help after the
      • I have simple Samsung and Sanyo phones that allow you to request an update in the phone. It is delivered over the cellular networks, and only on request. I've never seen them tell me that there was an update.
    • I think that a user wide field update is going to go smoother for the iPhone then any other PDA/Smartphone. The nature of the device - i.e. how deeply it is tied to iTunes - means that people are far more likely to synk with their main computer on a regular basis. iTunes is continually checking for updates and appears to download them automatically, even when the iPhone isn't connected. On the next sync, it makes sense that users would install the update (though it might just do that automatically, we don't
    • by cybermage (112274)
      mobile data typically costs so you can't keep checking for updates

      With the AT&T/Cingular plans, you have to take data and I believe it is unlimited. Still, as another poster suggests, I believe the updates will come via iTunes.

      I wonder, however, if iPhone users will be prompted on the phone to seek the patch through their iTunes. My wife has an iPod which she hasn't sync'd since right after we bought it eight months ago. It would be nice if they had an app on the phone that tells you that you have a sec
    • by Swift2001 (874553)
      This is where iTunes shows its mettle, I predict. You have to plug the thing in every night to recharge. One night, you get a patch when iTunes opens.
  • by oohshiny (998054) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:53AM (#19954209)
    Systems like Symbian have mobile security built in from the ground up; for example, the system asks before any new application can access phone data or the network (similar to capabilities-based UNIX security).

    Evidently (and, I suppose, not surprisingly), an OS X-based phone lacks these safeguard. I guess that's the real reason Apple has been refusing to permit third party phone apps on the iPhone, even though they don't cause problems on other phones: the iPhone software architecture just doesn't seem designed for it.
    • by brilwing (659717) on Monday July 23, 2007 @08:10AM (#19954791)
      I don't know the newer Symbian versions 8 and 9, but till version 7 there was no security in Symbian at all. Every program could do everything. I have programmed an installation program that opened a GPRS connection, downloaded a SIS file and installed it on the Symbian phone without user interaction!!!
      This was a bit tricky but it worked fine on Nokia Series 60 phones an on Sony Ericsson P800 and P900.

      I don't think that Symbian managed it in version 8 and 9 to build in a ground up security, because the SDK is huge with thousands of classes.
      • I don't think that Symbian managed it in version 8 and 9 to build in a ground up security, because the SDK is huge with thousands of classes.

        OK, "from the ground up" is probably overstating it, but they are making an effort.

        First, Symbian applications do need to get permission in order to get access to private data, phone services, and Internet services. If something equivalent were part of iPhone, it would be a lot less likely that a buffer overflow in Safari could be used to send SMSs.

        Second, Java on Sym
    • by PolarIced (119874) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:11AM (#19956401)
      Here are some more examples of Symbian security (apparently their first priority):

      1. The phone randomly locks up and/or turns off - this fools 3v1L hackers.
      2. Won't connect to most Bluetooth devices - keeps hackers out. Very clever!
      3. When syncing contacts, it mixes up all the fields so that an 3l33t hacker won't be able to make sense of them. You won't either, but at least you're safe.
      4. Apparently has a built-in function to slow all operations to a C...R...A...W...L... - this prevents hackers from using high speed automated systems to hack your phone. Ingeneous!

      Signed,
      A proud owner of a Cingular Nokia (Swedish for moose dung) phone.

      PS - Hack my phone. I dare you! Whoops . . . wait a minute. Let me reset it first.
      • by ad0gg (594412)
        The phone randomly locks up and/or turns off - this fools 3v1L hackers.

        You've never used an iphone have you? It takes this type of security to a new a level.

    • similar to capabilities-based UNIX security...Evidently (and, I suppose, not surprisingly), an OS X-based phone lacks these safeguard.

      Damn, mod parent down. Mac OS X is a UNIX-based system, and has exactly those capabilities.
      • by oohshiny (998054)
        Damn, mod parent down. Mac OS X is a UNIX-based system, and has exactly those capabilities.

        You don't know what you're talking about. Neither UNIX nor OS X have capabilities-based security by default. The term "capabilities-based UNIX security" refers to an optional security feature available on some versions of UNIX.
  • by iMouse (963104) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:57AM (#19954227)
    Apple iPhone users should be content with the finding of an exploit by responsible security researchers. Unlike InfoSec Sellout (who is likely blowing smoke up his as*), Charles Miller and the rest of the Independent Security Evaluators team should be applauded for their work. They responsibly reported the vulnerability (and a potential fix) to Apple for investigation.

    The Apple community should not in any way, shape or form, harass this group like they harassed InfoSec Sellout. I.S.E. are the good guys and as a 15-year Apple veteran, I give my best to those who are out to help Apple keep security at its tightest on their products and services.
    • by Graff (532189)

      Unlike InfoSec Sellout (who is likely blowing smoke up his as*), Charles Miller and the rest of the Independent Security Evaluators team should be applauded for their work. They responsibly reported the vulnerability (and a potential fix) to Apple for investigation.

      I totally agree. This is a clear-cut example of responsible investigation. They reported the bug to Apple and gave them a decent amount of lead time to work on the problem. It's no big surprise that Apple has already responded and the two groups are communicating to solve the issue.

      People wonder why Apple doesn't respond to a group like InfoSec well the answer should be obvious: InfoSec is not in the investigation business to help solve problems, they are in it to cause problems. A lot of these groups

    • by Swift2001 (874553)
      Yeah, you read the story, and you say, "My God! Actual 'security researchers', not snot-nosed hackers!"
  • by jht (5006) on Monday July 23, 2007 @07:15AM (#19954387) Homepage Journal
    Now let's see how long until the first iPhone patch comes out, and if any of the other glitches will be fixed at the same time or if it's strictly for security. Obviously Apple's already been working on iPhone patch #1 and is probably just about ready to push it out after a month.

    One functionality change that _should_ come out of this, though - I would turn off the default behavior of scanning for open networks and asking to join them. It wastes battery power, and the pop-ups for new networks are intrusive. In its place I'd put the AirPort icon in the display full-time (instead of just replacing the EDGE "E" when you are on a WiFi network) and allow quick access from there. I think, altogether, iPhone will be a pretty secure device after the initial flushing out of bugs, but this is a little different from traditional devices. iPhone has a classic desktop OS stripped down into a cellphone, whereas mainstream other devices (Palm, Windows CE, and Symbian) were designed more as cellphone systems (or PDA systems) and scaled up.

    (not replacing my iPhone with a Razr anytime soon!)
    • Windows CE as used in 'Windows Powered' devices is pretty much a desktop OS. The WinCE API is derived from Win32, cleaned up and modularized and with its own set of libraries and a real-time kernel. It does support a traditional embedded OS model where code is executed in place from whatever file system is wrapped around it, but the "Windows Powered" handhelds don't work that way.

      The first WinCE-based handhelds were pretty much "laptop replacements" with stripped down versions of Windows applications that r
    • this is backwards (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeremy_Bee (1064620)

      ... (iPhone) is a little different from traditional devices. (It) has a classic desktop OS stripped down into a cellphone, whereas mainstream other devices (Palm, Windows CE, and Symbian) were designed more as cellphone systems ... and scaled up.

      No offense, but this analysis seems quite backwards to me.

      The main differentiating feature of the iPhone software is that it is a brand new GUI designed specifically for a portable communicator. It is specifically and closely tailored to the physical attributes of the device and the applications it contains, and merges the software functionality with the physical functionality into a seamless whole. It's very success is tied to this integration and the fact that it does *not* simulate a desktop environm

      • by jht (5006)
        Sure, but that's the GUI and application layer you're talking about - not so much the core OS and functionality. The user experience is radically different from traditional mobile phones, but it's still Mac OS X under the hood. CE isn't Windows, though it resembles Windows and has part of Win32 ported to it. Symbian is a completely different beast (the old EPOC PDA OS, if I recall without taking the time for a Wikipedia search), while OS X is OS X.
  • Kind of ugly though (Score:3, Informative)

    by gelfling (6534) on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:21AM (#19955719) Homepage Journal
    Isn't this the same Safari exploit that's been known for a while?
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:21AM (#19955729)
    From TFA:

    [Fuzzing] involves sending malformed data to the device in an effort to cause a fault and make it crash. The vulnerability we discovered and exploited was found in MobileSafari using fuzzing.
    Since MobileSafari crashes every ten minutes or so for me with *well*-formed data, I'm not surprised to hear that this is possible. Apple *seriously* needs to push out a Safari bugfix asap, not just for security, but for usability.
    • by mtm (10808)
      While not a fix, I've found that if you re-boot the iPhone (hold down the Home and Sleep buttons for N seconds) MobileSafari doesn't crash anymore (at least for a while). When I first provisioned my phone Safari would crash multiple times per day. After a re-boot it stays up for over a week at a time. BTW, the iPod app was also crashing until the re-boot.
  • An iPatch? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:33AM (#19955851)
    If Apple releases an iPatch, does that mean they support piracy? Arrrrrr, avast ye LAN-lubbers!
  • by metamatic (202216) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:04AM (#19956311) Homepage Journal
    It's a good job there's no SDK for the iPhone, otherwise there might be security problems with the device, eh Steve?
  • Can Verizon now secretly switch the iPhone over to their network?

    Can anybody?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Richthofen80 (412488)
      Not unless Verizon can secretly shove a CDMA antenna into your iPhone without you noticing.

      the iPhone , when unlocked, will only ever work with GSM networks (T-Mobile and AT&T). Any changes that move the phone to Verizon would require solder and hot-glue.
  • A breath of fresh air after Maynor and MOAB.
    Apple is not losing any sleep because their handling of bugs isn't joy-making to either Maynor or LMH.
    These guys are transparent and helping with the fix and should be rewarded for such.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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