macOS Keychain Security Flaw Discovered by Researcher, but Details Not Shared With Apple Over Bug Bounty Protest

German security researcher Linus Henze this week discovered a new zero-day macOS vulnerability dubbed "KeySteal," which, as demoed in the video below, can be used to get to all of the sensitive data stored in the Keychain app.

Henze appears to use a malicious app to extract data from the Mac's Keychain app without the need for administrator access or an administrator password. It can get passwords and other information from Keychain, as well as passwords and details for other macOS users.


Henze has not shared the details of this exploit with Apple and says that he won't release it because Apple has no bug bounty program available for macOS. "So blame them," Henze writes in the video's description. In a statement to Forbes, Henze clarified his position, and said that discovering vulnerabilities takes time.

"Finding vulnerabilities like this one takes time, and I just think that paying researchers is the right thing to do because we're helping Apple to make their product more secure."

Apple has a reward program for iOS that provides money to those who discover bugs, but there is no similar payment system for macOS bugs.

According to German site Heise Online, which spoke to Henze, the exploit allows access to Mac Keychain items but not information stored in iCloud. Keychain is also required to be unlocked, something that happens by default when a user logs in to their account on a Mac.


Keychain can be locked by opening up the Keychain app, but an admin password then needs to be entered whenever an application needs to access Keychain, which can be inconvenient.

Apple's security team has reached out to Henze, according to ZDNet, but he has continued to refuse to provide additional detail unless they provide a bug bounty program for macOS. "Even if it looks like I'm doing this just for money, this is not my motivation at all in this case," said Henze. "My motivation is to get Apple to create a bug bounty program. I think that this is the best for both Apple and Researchers."

This isn't the first Keychain-related vulnerability discovered in macOS. Security researcher Patrick Wardle demoed a similar vulnerability in 2017, which has been patched.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
17 months ago
How does Apple not have a bug bounty program? Did they start believing their own marketing on Mac OS?
Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
17 months ago
It doesn’t surprise me. It’s been long time since Apple seemed to care about macOS.

I’m happy for the researcher. Let’s put some pressure on the giant.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
17 months ago
Thank god! It was so time-consuming having to double FaceTime call people and wait for them to casually list their passwords as part of natural conversation.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
17 months ago

I understand that finding flaws isn't always an easy thing and can take highly educated/skilled people lots of time to find things like this however no one is forcing this guy to do it.

This sounds a bit like extortion to me.

Extortion implies that not informing developers of bugs is illegal, which it isn’t of course. Apple has likely “reached out” to offer a reward, but he says his motivation is to use this as an opportunity to get a reward program in place for everyone. Good for him. it will probably happen now.

Yes, no one forced him to find this vulnerability, but if you’re a macOS user you should be thankful that he did.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
17 months ago
Hmm.

Are Bug Bounty rewards a good idea which provide incentive and reward to bug researchers? Yes. Should Apple have one for macOS? Most likely.

Should a researcher withhold details on a discovered bug as a protest about the lack of a bounty? I don't think so. It seems both unprofessional and dangerous.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
17 months ago
I understand that finding flaws isn't always an easy thing and can take highly educated/skilled people lots of time to find things like this however no one is forcing this guy to do it.

This sounds a bit like extortion to me.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Leaker Shares Details on 'iPhone 13' Camera

Wednesday May 27, 2020 4:27 pm PDT by
The next-generation iPhone 12 lineup coming in fall 2020 isn't out yet, but Fudge (@choco_bit), a leaker who sometimes shares information on upcoming Apple devices, today offered up details on what Apple has in store for the 2021 iPhone 13's camera setup. A simple design drawing depicts a device with a four camera array, which Fudge claims will have the following features: 64-megapixel...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Apple Making It Harder to Avoid Nagging macOS Update Notifications

Thursday May 28, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
With the release of macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and related security updates for macOS Mojave and High Sierra earlier this week, Apple is making it more difficult for users to ignore available software updates and remain on their current operating system versions. Included in the release notes for macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is the following:- Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when...

HBO Max Now Available on Apple TV and iOS Devices

Wednesday May 27, 2020 2:42 am PDT by
HBO Max launched today, and is now available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, which replaces HBO Now, combines HBO content with shows and films from Warner Bros and Turner TV. The service is available as a native app on the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, but second and third-generation ‌Apple TV‌ owners will need to AirPlay HBO Max content...

First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

Tuesday May 26, 2020 3:02 pm PDT by
The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC. A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs,...

Anker Launches $100 24K Gold-Plated USB-C to Lightning Cable

Wednesday May 27, 2020 12:47 pm PDT by
Anker, a brand normally known for its well-made, affordable accessories for Apple devices, has debuted a new $100 24K gold-plated USB-C to Lightning cable. According to Anker, the cable, which is in the PowerLine+ III family, features a "Special Edition Gold Design" that's "bold yet elegant" with the aforementioned gold-plated cable heads and matching braided gold and black cable. The...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...