Google Outlines iPhone Vulnerabilities That Let Malicious Websites Steal User Data for Years, Now Fixed

Google's Project Zero published a blog post this week about a previous security threat wherein malicious websites quietly hacked into the victim's iPhone. This small collection of hacked websites were used in what was described as "indiscriminate" attacks against unsuspecting visitors for years, but the threat has been addressed by Apple.

iphonexrxsmax
If the attacks were successful, a monitoring implant would be installed on the targeted ‌iPhone‌, able to steal private data including messages, photos, and GPS location in real time. Google estimated that thousands of visitors headed to these websites per week over the course of two years, and that iOS versions ranging from iOS 10 to iOS 12 were exploited.

There was no target discrimination; simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant. We estimate that these sites receive thousands of visitors per week.

TAG was able to collect five separate, complete and unique ‌iPhone‌ exploit chains, covering almost every version from iOS 10 through to the latest version of iOS 12. This indicated a group making a sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years.

Project Zero discovered exploits for a total of 14 vulnerabilities in iOS, seven for Safari, five for the kernel, and two separate sandbox escapes. The team reported these findings to Apple in February, and Apple's release of iOS 12.1.4 that same month addressed the issues.

Google's deep dive into the iOS exploit can be read on the company's Project Zero blog.

Top Rated Comments

noSpeed Avatar
20 months ago
So what were the malicious sites?
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Northern Man Avatar
20 months ago
The defenders will soon be here trying to explain how Apple was not at fault and that the company is really trying to put privacy priority # 1 (ha...ha...ha).
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
realtuner Avatar
20 months ago
Stick that on a billboard
Sure. Along with the time Google discovered a security flaw in Safari and instead of notifying Apple so they could fix it they wrote malware to exploit it so they could keep tracking users.

So the moral of the story is: If Google can somehow embarrass Apple over an exploit they'll release information to the public. If they can use the exploit to their own advantage, they'll keep quiet about it.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DCIFRTHS Avatar
20 months ago
So what were the malicious sites?
Same question. Read the articles, and didn’t see them listed. Maybe I missed them... I feel google has the responsibility to disclose them.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheShadowKnows! Avatar
20 months ago
Kudos to Google's Project Zero in spades.
GOTO: https://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2019/08/implant-teardown.html


"... we examined how the attackers gained unsandboxed code execution as root on iPhones. At the end of each chain we saw the attackers calling posix_spawn, passing the path to their implant binary which they dropped in /tmp. This starts the implant running in the background as root. There is no visual indicator on the device that the implant is running. There's no way for a user on iOS to view a process listing, so the implant binary makes no attempt to hide its execution from the system.

The implant is primarily focused on stealing files and uploading live location data. The implant requests commands from a command and control server every 60 seconds.

Before diving into the code let's take a look at some sample data from a test phone running the implant and communicating with a custom command and control server I developed. To be clear, I created this test specifically for the purposes of demonstrating what the implant enabled the attacker to do and the screenshots are from my device. The device here is an iPhone 8 running iOS 12.

The implant has access to all the database files (on the victim’s phone) used by popular end-to-end encryption apps like Whatsapp, Telegram and iMessage. We can see here screenshots of the apps on the left, and on the right the contents of the database files stolen by the implant which contain the unencrypted, plain-text of the messages sent and received using the apps..."
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
realtuner Avatar
20 months ago
Sounds like working as intended. Bugs found, reported and fixed in the same month.
This.

Going to quote it simply to counter the inevitable posts saying Apple somehow screwed up....blah....blah....blah.

First off, Apple didn't ignore this exploit for years. They simply didn't know about it. The only reason it went unnoticed for so long is because it wasn't widespread. Once an exploit becomes common it's usually discovered quickly. This is why zero-days are so valuable and often sold to governments or others who can afford to pay a couple million for an exploit. It's also why those same people only use the exploits on targets they consider valuable, because once it's out there it will be discovered and fixed.

Secondly, Apple dealt with it immediately. Google notified Apple on Feb 1st and Apple released a patch on Feb 7th. This is a perfect example of Apple having superior security to Android. Exploits will always exist. Being able to quickly roll out a fix for an exploit is one of the most important methods in dealing with them. Something Android is absolutely horrible at.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

bloodoxygenapplewatch

Apple Watch Series 7 to Gain Breakthrough New Health Feature

Friday March 5, 2021 5:34 am PST by
Apple is reportedly planning to bring a new, first-of-its-kind health technology to the Apple Watch Series 7, in what could be a breakthrough for managing conditions such as diabetes more easily. According to a recent report from ETNews, the Apple Watch Series 7 will feature blood glucose monitoring via a non-invasive optical sensor. Measuring blood glucose levels, also known as blood...
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 ...
imac pro featured black

Apple Confirms iMac Pro Will Be Discontinued When Supplies Run Out, Recommends 27-Inch iMac

Saturday March 6, 2021 7:33 am PST by
Apple on late Friday evening added a "while supplies last" notice to its iMac Pro product page worldwide, and removed all upgrade options for the computer, leaving only the standard configuration available to order for now. We've since confirmed with Apple that when supplies run out, the iMac Pro will no longer be available whatsoever. Apple says the latest 27-inch iMac introduced in August...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro

OLED 10.9-Inch iPad Rumored for Early 2022, 12.9-Inch iPad Pro and 16-Inch MacBook Pro Could Follow

Thursday March 4, 2021 8:37 pm PST by
Earlier today, DigiTimes shared a preview of an upcoming report claiming that Apple is working on both iPad and Mac notebook models with OLED displays that could launch starting in 2022. The full report from DigiTimes is now available, and it includes several new alleged details about Apple's plans. According to the report, the first of these devices to adopt an OLED display is likely to be...
apple products refurbished store banner

Class Action Lawsuit Over Apple Providing Refurbished Replacement Devices Proceeding to Trial in August

Friday March 5, 2021 9:53 am PST by
Initially filed in 2016, a class action lawsuit that accuses Apple of violating the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and other U.S. laws by providing customers with refurbished replacement devices is set to proceed to trial August 16, according to a notice this week from law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. Apple's repair terms and conditions state that,...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature2

iPhone 13 Rumor Recap: Smaller Notch, Larger Batteries, 120Hz for Pro Models, Improved 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and More

Friday March 5, 2021 8:20 am PST by
While we are likely at least six months away from Apple unveiling the so-called iPhone 13 lineup, rumors about the devices are starting to accumulate, so we've put together this recap of everything that is expected so far. The upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will consist of the same four models and the same screen sizes as the iPhone 12 lineup, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo,...
maxresdefault

What's on Your iPhone Home Screen?

Thursday March 4, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Over on our YouTube channel, MacRumors videographer Dan has a new video up where he shares his Home Screen, wallpaper, and all of his current favorite widgets. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Check out Dan's video to see his setup, and then comment below and show us your own Home Screens. It's always fun to see other peoples' Home Screens, and with widgets and...
OLED iPad Pro and MacBook Pro

iPad and MacBook Models With OLED Displays Rumored to Launch in 2022

Thursday March 4, 2021 8:19 am PST by
Apple plans to release new iPad and MacBook models with OLED displays in 2022, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The information was shared in the site's paywalled "Before Going to Press" section, so there are no further details yet, but the full report should be released by tomorrow. Apple has gradually increased its adoption of OLED...
Top Stories 48

Top Stories: iPhone 13 Leaks, OLED iPads and Macs, New AirTags Evidence

Saturday March 6, 2021 6:00 am PST by
iPhone rumors are heating up, with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week releasing a wide-ranging report outlining his expectations for the iPhone lineup over the next three years. This week also saw rumors about OLED displays potentially coming to iPad and Mac starting next year, increasing signs of AirTags functionality in iOS 14.5 betas, and more, so check out all of the details below! i...
imac pro while supplies last

iMac Pro No Longer Custom Configurable, Available 'While Supplies Last'

Friday March 5, 2021 10:14 pm PST by
Apple appears to be on the verge of discontinuing the iMac Pro, with the store page for the high-end all-in-one Mac including a "While supplies last" tagline and only the base model with no custom configurations available for purchase. The iMac Pro launched in December 2017, and while there have been a few tweaks to the available configurations over the years, it has received no substantial...