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

ZDNet 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

(View all)
Avatar
111 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)
Avatar
111 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)
Avatar
111 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)
Avatar
111 months ago
Apple will provide a fix for all of us @ the 10.8.3 juncture.;)
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 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)
Avatar
111 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

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...