iOS and OS X Security Flaws Enable Malicious Apps to Steal Passwords and Other Data

A team of six researchers from Indiana University, Georgia Tech and Peking University have published an in-depth report exposing a series of security vulnerabilities that enable sandboxed malicious apps, approved on the App Store, to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data stored in other apps, including iCloud passwords and authentication tokens, Google Chrome saved web passwords and more.


The thirteen-page research paper "Unauthorized Cross-App Resource Access on Mac OS X and iOS" details that inter-app interaction services, ranging from the Keychain and WebSocket on OS X to the URL Scheme on OS X and iOS, can be exploited to steal confidential information and passwords, including those stored in popular password vaults such as 1Password by AgileBits.

"We completely cracked the keychain service - used to store passwords and other credentials for different Apple apps - and sandbox containers on OS X, and also identified new weaknesses within the inter-app communication mechanisms on OS X and iOS which can be used to steal confidential data from Evernote, Facebook and other high-profile apps."

The different cross-app and communication mechanism vulnerabilities discovered on iOS and OS X, identified as XARA weaknesses, include Keychain password stealing, IPC interception, scheme hijacking and container cracking. The affected apps and services include iCloud, Gmail, Google Drive, Facebook, Twitter, Chrome, 1Password, Evernote, Pushbullet, Dropbox, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Dashlane, AnyDo, Pocket and several others.


Lead researcher Luyi Xing told The Register that he reported the security flaws to Apple in October 2014 and complied with the iPhone maker's request to withhold publishing the information for six months, but has not heard back from the company since and is now exposing the zero-day vulnerabilities to the public. The flaws affect thousands of OS X apps and hundreds of iOS apps and can now be weaponized by attackers.

Top Rated Comments

Westside guy Avatar
75 months ago
I'm a long-time Apple user - and I've near had enough. I have no longer have faith in Apple to protect my data ... Android has had its fair share of problems too, but I just trust the engineers at Google to not let stuff like this happen.
You apparently didn't read this paper because it also mentions similar, significant issues on Android.

Security is hard.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Craiger Avatar
75 months ago
Umm... "... and can now be weaponized by attackers"?? Because the he has made the knowledge of the existence of flaws public? I hope the exact nature of the flaws has been made known to Apple and hope Apple has an official response to this.
Did you read the entire article? It said Apple was told 6 months ago.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ViktorEvil Avatar
75 months ago
6 months should be plenty of time to fix this. Not good Apple, not good :(
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Alenore Avatar
75 months ago
OSX is the new Windows ;)
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheTissot11 Avatar
75 months ago
I don't get why this security flaws reported to Apple always seems to get the cold shoulder. Fix when El Capitan is released?
Because Federighi, though might be a great guy, is busy making funny videos for Keynotes instead of devoting time to iron out bugs and make the OS X secure. Sadly this seems to be true...
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Phil A. Avatar
75 months ago
I'm a long-time Apple user - and I've near had enough. I have no longer have faith in Apple to protect my data. Tim Cook can ramble on about privacy all he wants, but we all know that software has never been Apple's strength. It may look pretty, but vulnerabilities like these are becoming all too common. Android has had its fair share of problems too, but I just trust the engineers at Google to not let stuff like this happen. The last major flaw I recall from Android was that random number generator that wasn't implemented correctly and allowed some bitcoin wallets to be hijacked. That was hardly as widespread as this flaw. It's so frustrating.
Apple should have fixed this issue, but I don't see the point in hyperbole: All systems have vulnerabilities and Google / Samsung / Sony / HTC / Apple are all as bad as each other. There's an article on the same website (the register) today about a flaw in the latest Samsung phones that will allow the installation of malware simply by connecting to a compromised WiFi service so it's not been a good day all round for software!
Score: 16 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...