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Security Flaw Affects 1500 iOS Apps While Apple's OS X 10.10.3 'Rootpipe' Fix Proves Incomplete [Updated]

apple_security_iconOver the past few days a handful of reports have been accumulating in regards to two security flaws, one affecting roughly 1500 iOS apps and a second affecting OS X users despite Apple having tried to patch the vulnerability on OS X 10.10.3.

The first security flaw is making about 1500 iPhone and iPad apps vulnerable to hackers who could leverage the vulnerability to steal passwords, bank account information, and a handful of other sensitive information, according to Ars Technica. Discovered by security analytics firm SourceDNA last month, the "man-in-the-middle" attack was fixed in a 2.5.2 update to AFNetworking, the open-source code which housed the vulnerability.

Unfortunately, some developers have yet to update to the newest version of the code, leaving those 1500 apps open and vulnerable to the attack, which "can decrypt HTTPS-encrypted data" and essentially allows anyone generating a fake Wi-Fi hotspot access to a user's data on that same Wi-Fi connection. As a result, SourceDNA scanned and analyzed most apps on the App Store for the security flaw, and even created a search tool to discover if a particular app is under risk.
The day the flaw was announced & patched, a quick search in SourceDNA showed about 20,000 iOS apps (out of the 100k apps that use AFNetworking) both contained the AFNetworking library and were updated or released on the App Store after the flawed code was committed. Our system then scanned those apps with the differential signatures to see which ones actually had the vulnerable code.

The results? 55% had the older but safe 2.5.0 code, 40% were not using the portion of the library that provides the SSL API, and 5% or about 1,000 apps had the flaw. Are these apps important? We compared them against our rank data and found some big players: Yahoo!, Microsoft, Uber, Citrix, etc. It amazes us that an open-source library that introduced a security flaw for only 6 weeks exposed millions of users to attack.
Some of the known apps currently vulnerable to the man-in-the-middle attack includes Citrix OpenVoice Audio Conferencing [Direct Link], Alibaba's mobile app [Direct Link], and even Movies by Flixster with Rotten Tomatoes [Direct Link]. SourceDNA urges users to check their most used apps in its search tool for the security flaw, and promises to remove apps that have been fixed and add ones discovered to be vulnerable as time goes on.

The other flaw, called "Rootpipe", dates back to 2011 and has been known for some time. Apple intended to patch the Rootpipe vulnerability in OS X 10.10.3 earlier this month, although older versions of OS X were left vulnerable. But as reported by Forbes, former NSA agent Patrick Wardle has discovered the flaw to still be present on Macs running OS X 10.10.3, as well as older versions.
Apple put additional access controls to stop attacks, but Wardle’s code was still able to connect to the vulnerable service and start overwriting files on his Mac. “I was tempted to walk into the Apple store this [afternoon] and try it on the display models – but I stuck to testing it on my personal laptop (fully updated/patched) as well as my OS X 10.10.3 [virtual machine]. Both worked like a charm,” Wardle told FORBES over email. In a blog post, he’d said his exploit was “a novel, yet trivial way for any local user to re-abuse Rootpipe”.
Discovered last October, the Rootpipe flaw essentially allows a hidden backdoor to be created on a particular system, opening up root access of a computer to a hacker after they obtain local privileges on the device. Physical access or previously granted remote access to the target machine is required in order for the vulnerability to be exploited.

Most recently, Apple faced the "FREAK" security flaw in its systems, making everything from an Apple TV to an iPod touch vulnerable to stolen sensitive information. The company issued a few security updates on all platforms in the weeks following the discovery of the security flaw, beefing up security and working to assuage public concerns. In regards to the man-in-the-middle iOS and re-emerging Rootpipe flaws, the company has yet to comment.

Update: Alamofire Software Foundation has posted a response to the controversy over the AFNetworking issue, refuting SourceDNA's claims about the number of apps affected by noting that even if an app used a vulnerable version of AFNetworking, it would not be susceptible to attack as long as communication is handled over HTTPS with SSL pinning.
If your app communicates over HTTPS and enables SSL pinning, it is not vulnerable to the reported MitM attacks

A significant proportion of apps using AFNetworking took the recommended step of enabling SSL certificate or public key pinning. Those applications are not vulnerable to the reported MitM attacks.
Alamofire's Mattt Thompson tells MacRumors that there is simply no way to tell whether or not an app is vulnerable without trying to to initiate a man-in-the-middle attack, which SourceDNA did not do. Regardless, all developers using AFNetworking in their apps should update to version 2.5.3 immediately.



Top Rated Comments

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15 months ago
Pretty silly that Apple can't just bundle this detection into their App Store approvals process. They could also issue massive warnings to app makers and give a deadline to fix or their apps get removed.
Rating: 17 Votes
15 months ago

I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?


It's not the platform that is insecure here. It's a third party library that doesn't properly handle HTTPS in an OLDER version that has since been updated and patched. It's the developers of the app that are at fault here.
Rating: 16 Votes
15 months ago
Thank you for bringing the rootpipe issue to the front page. More people need to be aware of it so Apple in their best interest will take action to patch it.
Rating: 8 Votes
15 months ago
'generating a fake wifi hotspot'

i don't know much about this stuff, so does this mean you'd have to willfully join an unknown network because it seemed convenient, or it's a fake wifi network disguised as yours?
Rating: 7 Votes
15 months ago
I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?
Rating: 6 Votes
15 months ago

'generating a fake wifi hotspot'

i don't know much about this stuff, so does this mean you'd have to willfully join an unknown network because it seemed convenient, or it's a fake wifi network disguised as yours?


1. Go to any public place (restaurant, train station, airport, ...)
2. Setup your own Wi-Fi hotspot, no password set
3. Don't call it EvilNetwork, but rather...
4. "Free WiFi"

Be surprised how many people will willfully connect to that "fake" Wi-Fi hotspot...
Rating: 5 Votes
15 months ago

I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?


This isn't simply specific to OS X and iOS platforms. As someone already stated, it's the developers use of outdated libraries. These are few and far between incidents that get attention for that very reason. Windows, Android, etc OS's are much more vulnerable by comparison. However, let's now make this another "War of the OS's" threads. ;)

Oh, what source stated that OS X and iOS were the least secure platforms last year? I'm actually serious, that's disconcerting if true and backed.
Rating: 4 Votes
15 months ago
Rootpipe is a local escalation of privileges exploit. If you have "guest user" disabled, and you're the only one with login credentials on your Mac, you're okay.

The bad news is - the guest user account login is enabled by default. :D TURN IT OFF.
Rating: 4 Votes
15 months ago

My understanding (and that is far from clear) is that these are not easy hacks. It requires setting up websites or fake wifi hot spots and then require you to access them before the hacker could gain access. If I go to a starbucks and someone has created a fake Starbucks wifi and I join it, then maybe.

These are exposures to be sure, but ones that require me to fall into a trap. I try to be safe when surfing or when joining a hotspot. This should minimize my exposure. Plus, I dont have any of the apps mentioned that could put me at risk.


All of these hacks are actually easy. Setting up a hotspot is pretty damn easy, you can even do that with your Mac. The average computer user, especially a Mac user, doesn't care about security and "traps". If you will find a WiFi, I guarantee you 99.9% of people encountering it will connect to it.

Apple seems to have stepped up their game after Snowden revelations, but their security team (judging by their inability to correctly patch security holes) speaks volumes about their competency.

Dear Apple, like you are so keen on hiring fashion designers and sending 10k watches to celebrities, may be you can acquire a couple of security firms and start hiring some hackers.
Rating: 4 Votes
15 months ago

I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?


What kinda sucks is that people keep parroting this stat and don't realize the data behind it is flawed.

The article makes this claim based on the number of updates pushed out (http://www.zdnet.com/article/mac-os-x-is-the-most-vulnerable-os-claims-security-firm/). All we can actually conclude is that OS X and iOS were "most patched" last year. That alone doesn't make it "least secure." Actually.. you could argue the opposite: "most patched" could mean these OSes are more secure, after the fact....

...except the data is still inherently flawed, for three reasons:

1. The data assumes that unfound flaws don't exist. There could be way more flaws for Windows... they just haven't been found yet. There could also be way more unfound flaws for OS X, as we're discovering now.

2. Windows flaws have been broken out by version. OS X and iOS didn't get the same treatment: all versions were lumped into one, making the number for OS X artificially bigger.

3. Many of the flaws listed for Linux are also counted in OS X, because they use many of the same software underpinnings.


So no, you can't say that OS X, or any OS for that matter, is "least secure."
Rating: 4 Votes

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