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
6 weeks ago
For the people who never updates their phones, please take note.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kstotlani Avatar
6 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
6 weeks ago
"Even faster on the new Apple M1 Macbook Air"
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
m.x Avatar
6 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
6 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
6 weeks ago
That is really impressive. Kudos to Ian Beer!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
prototype iphone 12 pro

Prototype iPhone 12 Pro Shown Off in Photos

Wednesday January 13, 2021 3:39 pm PST by
Developer Giulio Zompetti, who often shows off prototype versions of Apple devices, today highlighted a prototype version of the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro is running an operating system called SwitchBoard, a nonUI version of the iOS 14 update that Apple uses internally. We've seen SwitchBoard on prototype devices before, as Apple uses it to test new features. Zompetti's prototype...
find my app safari post

Safari Allows Users to Enable Hidden 'Items' Tab in 'Find My' App Ahead of AirTags Launch

Wednesday January 13, 2021 5:45 am PST by
As seen in screenshots obtained by MacRumors in 2019, Apple's long-rumored AirTags items trackers are expected to be managed through the Find My app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Now, any user can get an early look at this tab. MacRumors reader David Chu today alerted us that the hidden "Items" tab in the Find My app can be enabled on an iPhone or iPad by typing in the link findmy://items in...
pioneer carplay wc5700nex

The Best Apple-Related Accessories at CES 2021

Wednesday January 13, 2021 1:16 pm PST by
CES 2021 is taking place digitally this year, and it hasn't been as exciting as in past years because many vendors have opted out. That said, some companies are still showing off some interesting Apple-related accessories that are coming out this year and that will be of interest to Mac, iPad, and iPhone users. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Pioneer Wireless...
Hue module dimmer switch

Philips Hue Announces New Wall Switch Module, Dimmer Switch, and Outdoor Light Bar

Thursday January 14, 2021 3:11 am PST by
Philips Hue has announced a new wireless dimmer switch module that lets Hue bridge owners directly control the smart lighting from their standard wall switches. The new Philips Hue wall switch module is the ideal addition to any Philips Hue set up. Installed behind existing light switches, it allows users to turn their existing switch into a smart switch and ensures their smart lighting is...
macbook pro 16 inch thunderbolt

Bloomberg: Next-Generation MacBook Pro to Offer Improved Displays, Faster Charging Over MagSafe

Thursday January 14, 2021 11:36 pm PST by
Following today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlining major changes for the next-generation MacBook Pro models coming in the third quarter of this year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has weighed in with his own report corroborating some of the details but seemingly differing a bit on others. First, Gurman shares more details on the return of MagSafe charging to the MacBook Pro, indicating...
cook cbs this morning

CBS This Morning: Apple to Make 'Big Announcement' Tomorrow Morning

Tuesday January 12, 2021 8:46 am PST by
CBS This Morning today shared a short clip of an upcoming interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook in which addressing last week's events at the U.S. Capitol, with Cook saying "it's key that people be held accountable for it." Following the clip, Gayle King of CBS noted that the interview with Cook was not specifically arranged to address the current controversy over Parler and other repercussions, ...
iOS 14

Apple Seeds Second Betas of iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday January 13, 2021 10:03 am PST by
Apple today seeded the second betas of upcoming iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new betas coming a month after Apple released the first betas. iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. Paired with the HomePod 14.4 beta that is...
caldigit thunderbolt 4 dock featured

CalDigit Introduces USB-C Dock With 10 Ports and Up to 94W Charging for Macs [Updated]

Wednesday January 13, 2021 9:16 am PST by
CalDigit today unveiled a new Thunderbolt 4 dock with a wide selection of connectivity options, including three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, two HDMI 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The dock also has a Thunderbolt 4 port that allows it to be connected to a Mac with a single cable, with up to 94W of pass-through charging for the latest MacBook...