iOS Wi-Fi Exploit Could Have Let Hackers Remotely Access Nearby iPhones

Earlier this year, Apple patched an iOS vulnerability that potentially could have allowed hackers to remotely access a nearby iPhone and gain control of the entire device.

awdl ios hack beer
Devised by Ian Beer, a researcher at Project Zero, Google's vulnerability research team, the exploit used a vulnerability in Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL), Apple's proprietary mesh networking protocol that enables features like AirDrop and Sidecar to work.

Beer revealed the stunning exploit on Tuesday in a 30,000-word blog post, which shows in detail how a memory corruption bug in AWDL could give attackers remote access to a user's personal data, including emails, photos, messages, and passwords and crypto keys stored in the keychain.

The vulnerability was discovered by Beer in a 2018 iOS beta that Apple accidentally shipped without stripping function name symbols from the kernelcache, offering a wealth of missing context about how bits of code fit together.

After lengthy investigative work, Beer was able to find code related to AWDL, identify the vulnerability, and target it remotely using a laptop, a Raspberry Pi 4B and a couple of Wi-Fi adapters.

It took six months for Beer to develop the exploit, but by the time he was finished he was able to hack any ‌iPhone‌ that was in radio proximity, run arbitrary code on it, and steal all the user data.

Beer says he has no evidence that the issues he uncovered were exploited in the wild, but "we do know that exploit vendors seem to take notice of these fixes."

The takeaway from this project should not be: no one will spend six months of their life just to hack my phone, I'm fine.

Instead, it should be: one person, working alone in their bedroom, was able to build a capability which would allow them to seriously compromise ‌iPhone‌ users they'd come into close contact with.

Imagine the sense of power an attacker with such a capability must feel. As we all pour more and more of our souls into these devices, an attacker can gain a treasure trove of information on an unsuspecting target.

Apple patched the vulnerability in May with the release of iOS 12.4.7 and iOS 13.3.1, and actually cites Beer in changelogs for several security updates. Apple said that the vast majority of users are already on newer versions of iOS that have been patched.

Tag: exploit

Top Rated Comments

haruhiko Avatar
19 weeks ago
For the people who never updates their phones, please take note.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kstotlani Avatar
19 weeks ago

At least 99% of the iPhone users can update to the latest version with all the critical fixes if they want. Most Android users have to get a new phone to get the latest OS updates.
There was an interesting conversation between Joe Rogan and Snowden. Snowden mentioned that Android’s fragmentation makes it difficult for hackers because there are so many versions across thousands of different devices. It’s hard to concentrate and develop exploits for such variety. Hackers would rather concentrate on devices like iPhones where there is likelihood of more devices with the same version of the OS. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mettwurst Avatar
19 weeks ago
"Even faster on the new Apple M1 Macbook Air"
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
m.x Avatar
19 weeks ago

This was fixed in iOS 12.4.7. The latest iOS 12 version is iOS 12.4.9. It can be installed on an iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6+. All later phones, starting with iPhone 6s, can run iOS 13 and iOS 14, which also fix the problem.
Simply using iOS 13 does not fix the problem - he demonstrates the attack using an iPhone 11 Pro on iOS 13.2. You need iOS 13.3.1 as it was patched there. It‘s a bit nitpicky but this information is missing in the Macrumors article as someone might think „oh, I’m running iOS 13.1 so I’m not affected“.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
0815 Avatar
19 weeks ago
At least 99% of the iPhone users can update to the latest version with all the critical fixes if they want. Most Android users have to get a new phone to get the latest OS updates.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vionc Avatar
19 weeks ago
That is really impressive. Kudos to Ian Beer!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...
tim cook toronto star

Tim Cook Says Apple is 'Not Against Digital Advertising' Ahead of iOS 14.5 Launch With App Tracking Transparency

Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, Apple will be requiring apps to receive a user's permission to track their activity for targeted advertising purposes, as part of a privacy measure known as App Tracking Transparency. Ahead of App Tracking Transparency being enforced, Apple CEO Tim Cook has participated in a privacy-focused interview with the Toronto Star, telling the...
a13 bionic mockup

Apple Made Sudden Security Changes to its Chips in Fall 2020

Monday April 12, 2021 8:15 am PDT by
Apple made unusual mid-production hardware changes to the A12, A13, and S5 processors in its devices in the fall of 2020 to update the Secure Storage Component, according to Apple Support documents. According to an Apple Support page, spotted by Twitter user Andrew Pantyukhin, Apple changed the Secure Enclave in a number of products in the fall of 2020:Note: A12, A13, S4, and S5 products...
HomePod G4 Feature

Bloomberg: Future HomePod May Feature iPad Connected Via Robotic Arm to Track Users Around The Room During FaceTime Calls

Monday April 12, 2021 3:50 am PDT by
In a report outlining a possible Apple TV with a combined HomePod and camera, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that Apple is exploring a future high-end HomePod speaker that could include an iPad connected via a robotic arm that tracks and follows users around a room. From the report: The Cupertino, California-based technology giant, is also mulling the launch of a high-end speaker with a touch ...