New Version of 'January 1, 1970 Bug' Can Brick Pre-iOS 9.3.1 Devices Over Compromised Wi-Fi Networks

Security researchers Patrick Kelley and Matt Harrigan have uncovered a new way to exploit the infamous January 1, 1970 bug that was found to be the cause of bricked iPhones in February. Despite Apple's patch of the original issue in iOS 9.3, Kelley and Harrigan discovered the way in which an iPhone constantly looks for trusted Wi-Fi networks could lend itself to the malicious bricking of a Wi-Fi enabled Apple device, without the user even knowing it was happening.

iPhone-6s-main
In a hypothetical example described by Krebs on Security, if a user confirms that a network called "attwifi" is a trusted connection, any subsequent network they come into contact with boasting the same name will connect with their iPhone. That way, when users revisit the same location frequently, they never have to fiddle with going through the Wi-Fi set-up process again. But the feature could be used to silently weaponize the 1970 bug, connecting users to similarly-named networks they've never encountered and altering the date and time stamps of their iOS devices.

In their research, Kelley and Harrigan used this feature of iPhones and iPads to build a nefarious Wi-Fi network, harnessing the requirement of iOS devices to occasionally connect to a network time protocol (NTP) server to keep date and time in sync. Once a user connected to their thought-to-be trusted network, the iPhone would reconfigure its software to update the date and time information from Kelley and Harrigan's own NTP date, which they specified as January 1, 1970.

Harrigan, president and CEO of San Diego-based security firm PacketSled, described the meltdown thusly:

“One thing we noticed was when we set the date on the iPad to 1970, the iPad display clock started counting backwards. While we were plugging in the second test iPad 15 minutes later, the first iPad said it was Dec. 15, 1968. I looked at Patrick and was like, ‘Did you mess with that thing?’ He hadn’t. It finally stopped at 1965, and by that time [the iPad] was about the temperature I like my steak served at.”

Harrigan and Kelley coordinated with Apple when they discovered their findings to avoid preempting the company's promise of a fix for the bug, and possibly encouraging its malicious use in the wild. As such, the company has fixed the issue and anyone running iOS 9.3.1 will be protected from the new iteration of the 1970 bug. Older iOS releases, including the original iOS 9.3 update, are still susceptible, however.

With the release of their research, the two security experts are understandably encouraging users to update their iPhones and iPads as soon as possible, and have created a video to better explain the issue.

Related Forum: iOS 9

Popular Stories

iOS 18 CarPlay Feature

iOS 18 Adds These 5 New Features to CarPlay

Thursday June 13, 2024 7:44 am PDT by
Apple did not mention CarPlay during its WWDC keynote this week, but iOS 18 includes a handful of new features for the in-car software. Overall, there is not a whole lot new for CarPlay on iOS 18, with changes seemingly limited to the Messages and Settings apps so far. Below, we recap everything new for CarPlay on iOS 18. New for CarPlay on iOS 18 1. Contact Photos in Messages App...
iOS 18 Wallet Feature

Here's What's New in Apple Wallet on iOS 18 for Event Tickets and More

Friday June 14, 2024 7:32 am PDT by
iOS 18 includes a handful of enhancements to the Wallet app on the iPhone, with new features for Apple Pay, Apple Cash, event tickets, and more. Below, we outline everything new for the Wallet app on iOS 18, based on information from Apple's press release and a WWDC 2024 coding session. Redesigned Event Tickets Event tickets have an all-new design in the Wallet app on iOS 18, complete...
apple watch series 9 display

Kuo: Apple Watch Series 10 to Get Larger Screen and Thinner Design

Monday June 17, 2024 1:20 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 10 will be thinner and come in larger screen sizes than previous models, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In his latest industry note -10-and-98075c44ce92">shared on Medium, Kuo said the screen size options on the next-generation Apple Watch will increase from 41mm to 45mm, and from 45mm to 49mm, while being encased in a thinner design. For reference,...
maxresdefault

First Look at Messages via Satellite in iOS 18

Thursday June 13, 2024 11:29 am PDT by
Apple has been gradually expanding its suite of satellite connectivity features for iPhone, and iOS 18 brings a significant new one in the form of Messages via satellite. The feature allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, while out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. CNET met up with Apple's senior director of platform product marketing,...
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

You Can Give Siri a New Name With iOS 18's Vocal Shortcuts

Friday June 14, 2024 4:33 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 18 added a Vocal Shortcuts accessibility feature, and now that iOS 18 is available in a beta capacity, users have figured out that this option can be used to give Siri a new wake word. With Vocal Shortcuts, you can assign a custom phrase that Siri can understand to launch shortcuts and complete "complex tasks," and one of the shortcuts you can set up is an alternative for "Hey...

Top Rated Comments

Tubamajuba Avatar
107 months ago
Apple iOS, it just works... oh wait :eek:
Dude, give it up. We get it, you hate all things Apple.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
braddick Avatar
107 months ago
this issue reminds me of the joke, "The patient says, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that!"
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KALLT Avatar
107 months ago
Apple products like the iPad (and virtually all mass-market wireless devices) are designed to automatically connect to wireless networks they have seen before. They do this with a relatively weak level of authentication: If you connect to a network named “Hotspot” once, going forward your device may automatically connect to any open network that also happens to be called “Hotspot.”

For example, to use Starbuck’s free Wi-Fi service, you’ll have to connect to a network called “attwifi”. But once you’ve done that, you won’t ever have to manually connect to a network called “attwifi” ever again. The next time you visit a Starbucks, just pull out your iPad and the device automagically connects.
That right there is your problem. As if automatic joining of known SSIDs was not a bad enough idea, iOS also offers no way to see, edit and remove these known SSIDs, unless you are in range. You can only reset your networking settings to clear everything, but who does that on a regular basis? I do not understand why Apple has not done anything about it. I’d wager that there are many iPhone users out there who have long lists of known SSIDs.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maxsix Avatar
107 months ago
Apple iOS, it just works... oh wait :eek:
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Traverse Avatar
107 months ago
I'm still astounded at how people find these. Like old hacks in Gameboy color games: "take 3 steps left, head down until you're spotted, press start at the right time to freeze the game, go here, turn around three times = unlimited whatever"

Who figures these out! :eek:
[doublepost=1460563286][/doublepost]
Apple should just change it to where you cannot change the date on iOS, and all times are adjusted automatically through Wi-Fi or cellular through Apple's servers only.
But then my aunt couldn't cheat at Candy Crush! :p
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Soba Avatar
107 months ago
Should never happen if apple is using ntp - the spec and all common implementations forbid time travel (setting clock backwards). So this is purely and Apple bug, not ntp.
Very tiny nitpick: In some situations, the clock will indeed be set backwards with ntp, but it's an unusual circumstance and the change should be quite small.

However, ntp's defaults (last I knew) forbid any clock correction exceeding 1000 seconds, so this kind of massive, 40-year correction should not be possible under any circumstances. Either Apple wrote their own time sync client (why?) or changed this default in their implementation of ntp. (Again, why?)

Incorrect device clocks have major security implications for any network, so even without this bricking bug, Apple should be paying closer attention to this. Time sync should never be an afterthought.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)