Security Flaw Affects 1500 iOS Apps While Apple's OS X 10.10.3 'Rootpipe' Fix Proves Incomplete [Updated]

apple_security_iconOver the past few days a handful of reports have been accumulating in regards to two security flaws, one affecting roughly 1500 iOS apps and a second affecting OS X users despite Apple having tried to patch the vulnerability on OS X 10.10.3.

The first security flaw is making about 1500 iPhone and iPad apps vulnerable to hackers who could leverage the vulnerability to steal passwords, bank account information, and a handful of other sensitive information, according to Ars Technica. Discovered by security analytics firm SourceDNA last month, the "man-in-the-middle" attack was fixed in a 2.5.2 update to AFNetworking, the open-source code which housed the vulnerability.

Unfortunately, some developers have yet to update to the newest version of the code, leaving those 1500 apps open and vulnerable to the attack, which "can decrypt HTTPS-encrypted data" and essentially allows anyone generating a fake Wi-Fi hotspot access to a user's data on that same Wi-Fi connection. As a result, SourceDNA scanned and analyzed most apps on the App Store for the security flaw, and even created a search tool to discover if a particular app is under risk.

The day the flaw was announced & patched, a quick search in SourceDNA showed about 20,000 iOS apps (out of the 100k apps that use AFNetworking) both contained the AFNetworking library and were updated or released on the App Store after the flawed code was committed. Our system then scanned those apps with the differential signatures to see which ones actually had the vulnerable code.

The results? 55% had the older but safe 2.5.0 code, 40% were not using the portion of the library that provides the SSL API, and 5% or about 1,000 apps had the flaw. Are these apps important? We compared them against our rank data and found some big players: Yahoo!, Microsoft, Uber, Citrix, etc. It amazes us that an open-source library that introduced a security flaw for only 6 weeks exposed millions of users to attack.

Some of the known apps currently vulnerable to the man-in-the-middle attack includes Citrix OpenVoice Audio Conferencing [Direct Link], Alibaba's mobile app [Direct Link], and even Movies by Flixster with Rotten Tomatoes [Direct Link]. SourceDNA urges users to check their most used apps in its search tool for the security flaw, and promises to remove apps that have been fixed and add ones discovered to be vulnerable as time goes on.

The other flaw, called "Rootpipe", dates back to 2011 and has been known for some time. Apple intended to patch the Rootpipe vulnerability in OS X 10.10.3 earlier this month, although older versions of OS X were left vulnerable. But as reported by Forbes, former NSA agent Patrick Wardle has discovered the flaw to still be present on Macs running OS X 10.10.3, as well as older versions.

Apple put additional access controls to stop attacks, but Wardle’s code was still able to connect to the vulnerable service and start overwriting files on his Mac. “I was tempted to walk into the Apple store this [afternoon] and try it on the display models – but I stuck to testing it on my personal laptop (fully updated/patched) as well as my OS X 10.10.3 [virtual machine]. Both worked like a charm,” Wardle told FORBES over email. In a blog post, he’d said his exploit was “a novel, yet trivial way for any local user to re-abuse Rootpipe”.

Discovered last October, the Rootpipe flaw essentially allows a hidden backdoor to be created on a particular system, opening up root access of a computer to a hacker after they obtain local privileges on the device. Physical access or previously granted remote access to the target machine is required in order for the vulnerability to be exploited.

Most recently, Apple faced the "FREAK" security flaw in its systems, making everything from an Apple TV to an iPod touch vulnerable to stolen sensitive information. The company issued a few security updates on all platforms in the weeks following the discovery of the security flaw, beefing up security and working to assuage public concerns. In regards to the man-in-the-middle iOS and re-emerging Rootpipe flaws, the company has yet to comment.

Update: Alamofire Software Foundation has posted a response to the controversy over the AFNetworking issue, refuting SourceDNA's claims about the number of apps affected by noting that even if an app used a vulnerable version of AFNetworking, it would not be susceptible to attack as long as communication is handled over HTTPS with SSL pinning.

If your app communicates over HTTPS and enables SSL pinning, it is not vulnerable to the reported MitM attacks

A significant proportion of apps using AFNetworking took the recommended step of enabling SSL certificate or public key pinning. Those applications are not vulnerable to the reported MitM attacks.

Alamofire's Mattt Thompson tells MacRumors that there is simply no way to tell whether or not an app is vulnerable without trying to to initiate a man-in-the-middle attack, which SourceDNA did not do. Regardless, all developers using AFNetworking in their apps should update to version 2.5.3 immediately.

Top Rated Comments

ovrlrd Avatar
84 months ago
Pretty silly that Apple can't just bundle this detection into their App Store approvals process. They could also issue massive warnings to app makers and give a deadline to fix or their apps get removed.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tritonxl Avatar
84 months ago
I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?

It's not the platform that is insecure here. It's a third party library that doesn't properly handle HTTPS in an OLDER version that has since been updated and patched. It's the developers of the app that are at fault here.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Raima Avatar
84 months ago
Thank you for bringing the rootpipe issue to the front page. More people need to be aware of it so Apple in their best interest will take action to patch it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
teslo Avatar
84 months ago
'generating a fake wifi hotspot'

i don't know much about this stuff, so does this mean you'd have to willfully join an unknown network because it seemed convenient, or it's a fake wifi network disguised as yours?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
b0nd18t Avatar
84 months ago
I guess these are some reasons iOS and OS X were the least secure platforms last year. Kinda sucks right?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
till213 Avatar
84 months ago
'generating a fake wifi hotspot'

i don't know much about this stuff, so does this mean you'd have to willfully join an unknown network because it seemed convenient, or it's a fake wifi network disguised as yours?

1. Go to any public place (restaurant, train station, airport, ...)
2. Setup your own Wi-Fi hotspot, no password set
3. Don't call it EvilNetwork, but rather...
4. "Free WiFi"

Be surprised how many people will willfully connect to that "fake" Wi-Fi hotspot...
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple california streaming event

Apple Event Announced: 'California Streaming' on September 14 With iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7 Expected

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple today announced that it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. The event will take place at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with WWDC and last year's fall events, this new event will be held digitally with no members of the media invited to attend in person. Apple will likely provide pre-taped segments for...
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 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 in October 2020 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...
it home ecommerce app iphone 13

iPhone 13 to Launch on September 17, AirPods 3 on September 30, Claims Report

Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:42 am PDT by
Apple may be planning to launch the iPhone 13 on Friday, September 17 and third-generation AirPods on Thursday, September 30, according to an image of an e-commerce app discovered by Chinese language site IT Home. The screenshot, originally posted by Weibo account @PandaIsBald, suggests all four iPhone 13 models will go on sale on September 17, followed by the AirPods 3 on September 30....
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
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...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
maroon5memories

Apple Collaborates With Maroon 5 to Add 'Memories' Song to Photos App

Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:02 pm PDT by
Apple has teamed up with Maroon 5 to add the group's new song "Memories" to the Memories feature in the Photos app, allowing it to be used for photo slide show creations, reports Billboard. "Memories" will be available as a soundtrack option for a limited time and it is available to iPhone and iPad users running the latest iOS 13 and iPadOS software. Memories in the Photos app are created ...
ulysses Blog Publishing

Ulysses 22 Brings New Blogging Options and Visual Customizations

Monday March 22, 2021 5:24 am PDT by
Popular writing app Ulysses today received its 22nd major release, introducing new publishing features and additional options for users to customize the visual appearance of their writing environment. As well as providing a focused writing environment, Ulysses offers ways to publish texts from within the app to various blogging platforms. Version 22 adds the ability to publish to Micro.blog, ...
affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...