Researchers Demonstrate Vulnerability Allowing Theft of iPhone Passwords
IDG News Service reports that German researchers have demonstrated how a knowledgeable thief could bypass the iPhone's passcode locking to upload a script capable of revealing entries from the device's password keychain system, potentially giving the hacker access to sensitive passwords stored on the device.
In a video that demonstrates the attack, the researchers first jailbreak the phone using existing software tools. They then install an SSH server on the iPhone that allows software to be run on the phone.
The third step is to copy a keychain access script to the phone. The script uses system functions already in the phone to access the keychain entries and, as a final step, outputs the account details it discovers to the attacker.
The attack works because the cryptographic key on current iOS devices is based on material available within the device and is independent of the passcode, the researchers said. This means attackers with access to the phone can create the key from the phone in their possession without having to hack the encrypted and secret passcode.
According to the report, the researchers were able to obtain passwords for Gmail accounts, Microsoft Exchange accounts, voicemail access, VPN and Wi-Fi network passwords, as well as passwords for some applications.
The researchers note that gaining access to an email password makes it easy for hackers to then reset passwords for other types of accounts, while compromised passwords for corporate networks can obviously result in security issues for businesses.
The exploit obviously requires a fair amount of technical knowledge, and thus shouldn't be an issue for the vast majority of users whose devices become lost or stolen. But the exploit could be used in targeted attacks by those specifically seeking to gain access to sensitive systems.