Password Security Hole Discovered in Certain FileVault Configurations on OS X 10.7.3

filevault iconZDNet reports on the discovery of a significant breach of password security for certain users of Apple's FileVault encryption system under OS X Lion. Affected systems currently store the login information for every recent user of the machine in plain text, allowing for easy circumvention of encryption.

In specific configurations, applying OS X Lion update 10.7.3 turns on a system-wide debug log file that contains the login passwords of every user who has logged in since the update was applied. The passwords are stored in clear text.

Anyone who used FileVault encryption on their Mac prior to Lion, upgraded to Lion, but kept the folders encrypted using the legacy version of FileVault is vulnerable. FileVault 2 (whole disk encryption) is unaffected.

The issue was noted last Friday by David Emery on the Cryptome mailing list.

This is worse than it seems, since the log in question can also be read by booting the machine into firewire disk mode and reading it by opening the drive as a disk or by booting the new-with-LION recovery partition and using the available superuser shell to mount the main file system partition and read the file. This would allow someone to break into encrypted partitions on machines they did not have any idea of any login passwords for.

Emery also offers some suggestions for dealing with the issue, including turning on FileVault 2 and setting a firmware password on the machine in question.

The issue was actually first noted in the Apple discussion forums back on February 6, just days after OS X 10.7.3 was released to the public. That poster now notes that the issue may extend further than just the specific FileVault situation outlines by others, as he notes that he has experienced the same behavior on an OS X Lion virtual machine through VMware Fusion, without FileVault ever having been active on the installation. Consequently, the extent of the issue may not yet be fully known.

Apple has yet to offer any response to the issue, although it is unclear when the company became aware of it. Apple touts the security features of OS X Lion in its promotional materials for the operating system, with a focus on FileVault as an important component of that security, and it seems likely that the company will move as quickly as possible to investigate and fix the issue.

Top Rated Comments

loveturtle Avatar
122 months ago
What's the difference between FileVault and FileVault 2? I use 2, but are there any reasons someone would be unable to upgrade from the original to the new version?

If not, this seems like a non-issue.

This is not a non-issue. Don't be an apologist. There are legitimate reasons to use FileVault v1 over v2. v1 encrypts your home directory while v2 encrypts the whole filesystem. If you have untrusted users on the same computer (say shared with a family) v2 will give other users full access to your files while v1 will encrypt on a per home directory basis and another user will be unable to see your files.

Even if there were no legitimate reason to use v1 over v2 that is still no excuse. This is a serious oversight with serious consequences. Now these kind of things happen and the fact that it happened is not an insult to Apple. However, there is no excuse for it going unpatched for this long. There should have been a patch immediately after it was discovered. There is no excuse for that.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Small White Car Avatar
122 months ago
I'm actually one of those people who like the user-features added to Lion, but doesn't it seem like the behind-the-scenes stuff in Lion is the sloppiest work in ANY version of the Mac OS?

I just feel like I'm seeing more stories like this these days than I did in past years.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
3282868 Avatar
122 months ago
This is one reason why I wish Apple would start hiring more engineers instead of shuffling them back and forth between iOS and OS X departments as they have since before the first iPhone launch in 2006 (Leopard was delayed twice to an October '06 release as engineers from OS X were shifted to iOS).

It's been stated Jobs hated hiring more, and kept a tight knit group of engineers. Perhaps more would help alleviate/diminish the odds of such programming flaws. Who knows. Either way, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt.

I'm actually one of those people who like the user-features added to Lion, but doesn't it seem like the behind-the-scenes stuff in Lion is the sloppiest work in ANY version of the Mac OS?

I just feel like I'm seeing more stories like this these days than I did in past years.
Agree. From what I gather, engineers are strained, being spread across iOS OS X departments. In part to unify the group but also in keeping with Jobs' desire for a small engineering base. It seems to be negatively effecting some aspects to their OS's.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tigres Avatar
122 months ago
Apple will provide a fix for all of us @ the 10.8.3 juncture.;)
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HelveticaRoman Avatar
122 months ago
If Apple were an airline, there's still a better than 80% chance you'd get to your destination safely.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
loveturtle Avatar
122 months ago
On point 1 above, if you use V2 you still cannot access another users files without root access. The system owner should set a root pw. If you set a root pw then others cannot get simple access to other users folders even if they're set as admin level. Although this has nothing to do with the security issues just revealed.

That's not true. Any admin user can spawn a root shell without the root password.

turtle@vier ~ $ whoami
turtle
turtle@vier ~ $ sudo su
vier turtle # whoami
root
vier turtle #

No password required other than the admin user password. That's not the point anyway, system passwords should not be logged in clear text period. Again, the fact that this happened isn't as big of a problem as the fact that it hasn't been patched yet.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last October in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iCloud General Feature

iCloud+'s New Custom Email Domain Feature Now Available in Beta

Wednesday August 25, 2021 7:48 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, users with a paid iCloud+ storage plan can personalize their iCloud email address with a custom domain name, such as johnny@appleseed.com, and the feature is now available in beta. iCloud+ subscribers interested in setting up a custom email domain can visit the beta.icloud.com website, select "Account Settings" under their name, and select ...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
macbook air deals

Deals: Amazon Drops Price of 256GB M1 MacBook Air to New Low of $849.99 ($149 Off)

Friday August 27, 2021 6:16 am PDT by
Amazon today introduced new low prices on the M1 MacBook Air for both 256GB and 512GB storage options. To start, you can get the 256GB model for $849.99, down from an original price of $999.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Only Silver and Gold are...
maxresdefault

New MacBook Pro Models Coming at WWDC, Suggests Leaker

Monday May 24, 2021 1:27 pm PDT by
New MacBook Pro models are coming at WWDC, according to leaker Jon Prosser who has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting Apple's plans. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Prosser provided no additional information, but there are new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models in the works. The new MacBook Pros will feature the most radical redesign to the MacBook Pro ...
calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
maxresdefault

'Being James Bond' Retrospective Will Be Free to Watch Through Apple TV App

Tuesday August 31, 2021 8:25 am PDT by
Update 9/7/21: "Being James Bond" is now available to watch through the Apple TV app. Ahead of the theatrical release of James Bond film "No Time To Die" on October 8 in the United States, a 45-minute retrospective titled "Being James Bond" will be available to watch for free through the Apple TV app, according to Deadline. The story from MGM is said to feature Daniel Craig reflecting ...
ted lasso notchless phone

No, That Notchless iPhone Spotted in 'Ted Lasso' Isn't the iPhone 13

Tuesday August 31, 2021 2:15 am PDT by
Recent sightings of a notchless iPhone in highly popular Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso" have led to sensational headlines suggesting this is a canny bit of product placement on Apple's part and that the iPhone 13 will be notchless. In actuality – and this could go without saying – the phone in question is very likely just showing a poorly superimposed display added in post-production. Notchless ...