Security Researcher Reveals iOS Security Flaw, Gets Developer License Revoked

charliemillerSecurity researcher Charlie Miller revealed earlier today that he had found an exploit in Apple's iOS software that allows an App to run arbitrary code. Apple generally approves all code that is submitted to the AppStore and forbids the execution of un-approved code, but Miller discovered a way to bypass this restriction. Forbes writes:

Miller became suspicious of a possible flaw in the code signing of Apple’s mobile devices with the release of iOS 4.3 early last year.
...
The researcher soon dug up a bug that allowed him to expand that code-running exception to any application he’d like.

Beyond discovering the bug, Miller went a step further and actually had an App submitted to the App Store which took advantage of this bug. The App was approved and was able to perform as expected:

Using his method–and Miller has already planted a sleeper app in Apple’s App Store to demonstrate the trick–an app can phone home to a remote computer that downloads new unapproved commands onto the device and executes them at will, including stealing the user’s photos, reading contacts, making the phone vibrate or play sounds, or otherwise repurposing normal iOS app functions for malicious ends.

Shortly after the news broke, Apple revoked Miller's developer account, citing a breach of the developer agreement.

“This letter serves as notice of termination of the iOS Developer Program License Agreement…between you and Apple,” the email read. “Effective immediately.”

Miller plans to present his findings at the SysCan conference in Taiwan next week.

Top Rated Comments

Fazzy Avatar
133 months ago
I guess he should have told apple about it instead of submitting that app
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miles01110 Avatar
133 months ago
Meanwhile Google is handing out bounties for stuff like this. Because why would you want to get (almost) free help from industry-leading professionals? Submitting it to the App Store probably wasn't the way to go, though.
Score: 43 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thewitt Avatar
133 months ago
It's one thing to find a security hole and professionally inform Apple, quite another to write an app to exploit it and announce you will tell the works how to do it in a conference in a week...

Charlie is a smart guy who makes some really stupid decisions.

Professional developers disclose issues in iOS to Apple through secure channels all the time without this media madness.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChazUK Avatar
133 months ago
https://twitter.com/#!/0xcharlie/status/133739410662494208

For the record, without a real app in the AppStore, people would say Apple wouldn't approve an app that took advantage of this flaw.

That pretty much explains why he submitted the app for approval.

I have no doubt that many would have said this wouldn't have got through if he simply revealed the flaw without submitting an app.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iJanne Avatar
133 months ago
If you read the source article, the guy reported the bug to Apple a month ago.

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This makes Apple look pretty bad. And if he had submitted the bug what are the chances Apple would have responded in a timely manner if at all?

He submitted the bug to Apple on Oct 17 according to the source article.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
applebook Avatar
133 months ago
I wasn't aware that Google rewarded people for exploiting their security flaws without their consent. :rolleyes:

No company or person likes to be exploited. Miller should have revealed the findings instead of trying to take advantage of the flaw.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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