Researchers Find New 'FREAK' Security Flaw, Apple Says Fix Coming Soon

apple_lock_faceResearchers have recently uncovered a major security flaw in software created by companies like Google and Apple, leaving many devices vulnerable to hacking attempts, reports The Washington Post. Called "FREAK" (Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys), the vulnerability stems from a U.S. government policy that once prevented companies from exporting strong encryption, requiring them to instead create weak "export-grade" products to ship to customers outside of the United States.

These restrictions were lifted more than a decade ago, but the weaker encryption has continued to be used by software companies as a result of the old policy and it has even been built into software in the U.S. The existence of lingering "export-grade" encryption was unnoticed until this year, when researchers found they could force browsers to use lower-grade 512-bit encryption and then crack it.

Hackers could potentially employ the same tactic, cracking weak encryption and then stealing passwords and other information. Researchers also believe the vulnerability could be used to launch attacks on and infiltrate major websites. In testing, the export-grade encryption key was breached in seven hours using computers and more than a quarter of encrypted sites were found to be vulnerable.

"We thought of course people stopped using it," said Karthikeyan Bhargavan, a researcher at the French computer science lab INRIA whose team initially found the problem during testing of encryption systems.

Nadia Heninger, a University of Pennsylvania cryptographer, said, "This is basically a zombie from the '90s... I don't think anybody really realized anybody was still supporting these export suites."

As pointed out by The Washington Post, the FREAK vulnerability is an example of the problems that can arise when the government gets involved in device security. Government officials have recently expressed concern over the privacy features that Apple and Google have been building into their smartphones in response to outrage over secretive government surveillance programs like PRISM.

FBI Director James Comey has made remarks suggesting Apple and Google should scale back encryption, as government access to electronic devices is necessary in some cases. He has said that it may matter a "great, great deal" that the government be able to infiltrate the device of a kidnapper, criminal, or terrorist.

The researchers who discovered the flaw have notified government sites and major technology companies to fix the issue before it became widely publicized. FBI.gov and Whitehouse.gov have been fixed, and according to Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller, Apple is preparing a security patch that will be "in place next week for both its computers and its mobile devices."

Top Rated Comments

AngerDanger Avatar
84 months ago
In testing, the export-grade encryption key was breached in seven hours using computers and more than a quarter of encrypted sites were found to be vulnerable.

For those who are wondering, that's roughly 13.5 hours using bananas, depending on ripeness.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anzio Avatar
84 months ago
How do I get a job naming these exploits?

Discover an exploit.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NightFox Avatar
84 months ago
I'm still trying to work out how you get from "Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys" to FREAK. This is taking acronym creation into a whole new dimension.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Saucesome2000 Avatar
84 months ago
"the FREAK vulnerability is an example of the problems that can arise when the government gets involved in device security."

It's a good thing no problems could arise if the government ever gets involved in regulating the internet...
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
H2SO4 Avatar
84 months ago
Pardon???

I mean….
...from a U.S. government policy that once prevented companies from exporting strong encryption, requiring them to instead create weak "export-grade" products to ship to customers outside of the United States

WTF??
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Reason077 Avatar
84 months ago
OMG I'm so like FREAKing out right now
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Pro Display XDR Yella

Apple Working on External Display With Built-In A13 Chip

Friday July 23, 2021 9:37 am PDT by
Apple is developing an external display that includes an A13 chip with Neural Engine, according to a new rumor from 9to5Mac. The A13 chip with Neural Engine would presumably serve as an eGPU, though details are light at this time. Having a CPU/GPU built into the external display could help Macs deliver high-resolution graphics without using all the resources of the computer's internal chip....
maxresdefault

Apple Music to Livestream Premiere of Kanye West's New Album 'Donda' on Thursday

Wednesday July 21, 2021 1:49 am PDT by
Apple Music on Thursday will host a global livestream for the premiere of Kanye West's tenth studio album, titled "Donda." The sold-out event will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, and Apple Music's livestream will start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The livestream was revealed in a Beats Studio Buds ad that aired during the NBA Finals. The ad features U.S. track...
airpods 3 gizmochina Feature

AirPods 3 Rumored to Launch Alongside iPhone 13 at Expected September Event

Friday July 23, 2021 12:54 am PDT by
The third-generation AirPods will likely launch at the same event revealing Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup, according to a report from DigiTimes, which makes the claim citing sources familiar with the matter. The report as a whole echoes previous reporting that production of the third-generation AirPods will kickstart in August, meaning a launch shortly after can be easily expected. DigiTi...
idos 2 app ios

Apple to Pull 'iDOS 2' DOS Emulator From App Store

Thursday July 22, 2021 3:22 pm PDT by
iDOS 2, an app designed to allow users to play classic DOS games, will soon be pulled from the App Store, the app's creator said today. According to iDOS developer Chaoji Li, he tried to submit an iDOS update with bug fixes to the App Store, but was told that the update was rejected because it violated the 2.5.2 App Store guideline that says apps cannot install or launch executable code.Durin...
iPad mini pro feature

Next iPad Mini Won't Feature Mini-LED Display, Claims Display Analyst

Friday July 23, 2021 8:07 am PDT by
Yesterday, DigiTimes claimed that the upcoming iPad mini will feature a mini-LED display, but now, display analyst Ross Young is going at odds with that report, claiming that while the updated iPad mini continues to be on track for a release this year, it won't feature a mini-LED display. Young says he "confirmed" with Radiant Opto-Electronics, who DigiTimes claims would provide Apple with...
AirPods Pro Beta Firmware

AirPods Pro Beta Firmware Now Available

Wednesday July 21, 2021 6:50 am PDT by
Upcoming AirPods Pro firmware updates are now available to Apple Developer Program members as beta versions. AirPods Pro firmware beta one features FaceTime Spatial Audio and Ambient Noise Reduction. Custom Transparency mode, including Conversation Boost, was initially expected to be included in the beta but appears to have been delayed for a later version. Apple made the announcement...
iPad mini pro feature

Next-Generation iPad Mini Will Reportedly Feature a Mini-LED Display

Thursday July 22, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple is widely rumored to be planning a new iPad mini with a significant redesign, including a larger 8.5-inch to 9-inch display with slimmer bezels, a Touch ID power button instead of a home button, a USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector, and more. According to a paywalled preview of a DigiTimes report today, the sixth-generation iPad mini will also feature a mini-LED display:BLU...
discount m1 macbook yellow

Deals: Shop Record Low Prices Across Apple's Full MacBook Pro and MacBook Air Lineup (Up to $499 Off)

Friday July 23, 2021 8:23 am PDT by
Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lineup is seeing all-time low discounts across the board today, including the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, 2020 13-inch MacBook Air, and 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. 13-Inch M1...
ios wifi settings

Apple Confirms iOS 14.7 Fixes WiFi Bug and Many Other Vulnerabilities

Wednesday July 21, 2021 11:38 am PDT by
Following the release of iPadOS 14.7 this morning, Apple has shared details on the security updates that are included in iOS 14.7, iPadOS 14.7, macOS Big Sur 11.5, watchOS 7.6, and tvOS 14.7, all of which came out this week. Notably, Apple's documentation confirms that the iOS 14.7 and iPadOS 14.7 updates address a WiFi-related vulnerability that could impact iOS devices when joining a...
macOS Big Sur Feature Orange

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.5 With Podcast App Updates and Bug Fixes

Wednesday July 21, 2021 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.5, the fifth major update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November 2020. macOS Big Sur 11.5 comes two months after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.4. The new ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌‌ 11.5 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences. macOS Big Sur...