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
78 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
78 months ago
How do I get a job naming these exploits?

Discover an exploit.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NightFox Avatar
78 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
78 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
78 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
78 months ago
OMG I'm so like FREAKing out right now
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
PIA23764 RoverNamePlateonMars web

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 G3 iMac

Tuesday March 2, 2021 3:21 am PST by
NASA's Perseverance rover, which recently made history landing on the surface of Mars, is powered by the same processor used in an iMac more than 23 years old. Image Credit: NASA As reported by NewScientist (via Gizmodo), the rover includes the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the G3 iMac in 1998. The main chipset is the same; however, there are differences between the...
magsafe charging brick feature

Prosser: iPhone 12 MagSafe Battery Pack to Feature Reverse Charging

Monday March 1, 2021 1:18 pm PST by
Apple is working on MagSafe-compatible battery packs that will be compatible with the iPhone 12 models, and leaker Jon Prosser today said on the Genius Bar podcast that one version of the battery pack will feature "reverse charging." According to Prosser, Apple is working on two versions of the battery packs, one that's a standard version and one that's a premium version with reverse...
rosetta 2

Rosetta May Be Removed From M1 Macs in Some Regions on macOS 11.3

Tuesday March 2, 2021 5:20 pm PST by
Installing the upcoming macOS 11.3 software update on an M1 Mac may result in Rosetta 2 being removed in one or more regions around the world. In the third beta of macOS 11.3 seeded to developers for testing today, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser uncovered new strings in the beta's code indicating that "Rosetta will be removed upon installing this update." Another new string reads "Rosetta ...
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh...
Screen Shot 2021 03 03 at 11

MagSafe Charging Port for iPhone Appears in Apple Patent

Wednesday March 3, 2021 1:30 am PST by
In a newly granted patent, Apple envisions a type of connectivity port using an iteration of its magnetic MagSafe charger to charge an iPhone, potentially paving the way for a future without Lightning. Submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday (via Patently Apple), the patent outlines a three-pinned MagSafe charger, similar to the ones found in older MacBook...
apple transfer google photos 1

Apple Launches Service for Transferring iCloud Photos and Videos to Google Photos

Wednesday March 3, 2021 12:04 pm PST by
Apple this week introduced a new service that's designed to make it quick and easy for iCloud users to transfer their stored photos and videos to Google Photos. As outlined in an Apple support document, you can go to Apple's privacy website and sign in to see the "Transfer a copy of your data" option. If you select this and go through all the steps, Apple will transfer your iCloud photos and ...
galaxy s21 iphone 12 pro max front feature2

Kuo: Some 2022 iPhones to Abandon Notch in Favor of 'Punch-Hole' Display

Monday March 1, 2021 8:05 am PST by
At least some 2022 iPhone models will abandon the notch and switch to a "punch-hole display design" instead, similar to Samsung's recent high-end Galaxy smartphones, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo said the hole-punch display design will be adopted by high-end 2022 iPhones at a minimum, and if production yields are good enough, all 2022 iPhone...