Apple Sending Special iPhones to First Participants in Security Research Device Program

Apple in July announced the launch of a new Apple Security Research Device Program, which is designed to provide researchers with specially-configured iPhones that are equipped with unique code execution and containment policies to support security research.

applesecuritydevice
Apple is notifying the first researchers who will be receiving these special iPhones as of today, and the Cupertino company says that the devices will be sent out right away. Under the terms of the program, participating security researchers will be provided with iPhones that are on loan for one year, though it will be possible to extend the loan period.

The goal of the Security Research Device Program is to further improve the security of iOS, and Apple believes that the contributions of security researchers will assist the company in achieving its goal of increasing safety for consumers. Apple says that it values collaborating with independent researchers and appreciates the work they do on Apple platforms.

The iPhones Apple will provide are less locked down than consumer devices, which will make it easier for researchers to locate serious security vulnerabilities. These devices are as close as possible to production phones with the latest version of iOS and modern hardware. Researchers will not need to jailbreak the phones to do research, which will enable them to investigate platform security features, and they can run whatever tools they want to test the OS.

Program participants have access to extensive documentation and a dedicated forum with Apple engineers for collaborative purposes. The Security Research Device Program runs alongside the bug bounty program, so researchers who locate vulnerabilities can receive payouts of up to $1.5 million.

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Top Rated Comments

motm95 Avatar
45 months ago
Awesome. This is a great way to continue to improve the security of iOS devices.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
12643 Avatar
45 months ago
How many copies you think the NSA is getting?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adib Avatar
45 months ago

They could make iOS open source and then the community can improve upon it and also install it on non-Apple devices. :p
Ah yes, and Desktop Linux is the best end-user operating system since, ever. ?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Makosuke Avatar
45 months ago

How does Apple ensure that they are not making the research to find exploits easier but that the researcher doesn’t sell a found exploit to a 3rd party for more than Apple offers?

Is Apple monitoring and recording the nature and content of the researcher’s work, so they know who to go after should a bad faith researcher go rogue?
I don't know any details, but in general terms I think this is a situation where giving the same tools to multiple researchers, in addition to good bounties for finding a bug, is a pretty solid way to get good-faith participation.

Generally I tend to trust public security researchers like this, since if they were interested in selling exploits to criminals... they wouldn't be public security researchers. They'd just do it quietly as a blackhat and not risk the exposure if someone they sell to gets caught or whatnot. Why make a big deal out of being a researcher then do something flagrantly illegal?

But even if you don't trust them, each one has to do the calculus: Other people have the same device I have. I find a bug that Apple is willing to pay $500,000 for and can get the payout for immediately, legally, no questions asked.

Or I can try to find some very wealthy criminal or state actor who is willing to pay $2,000,000 for it, launder the money, probably quit my job because people are probably going to ask questions if I flaunt it, and my buyer is going to have to be okay with the risk that one of the other researchers isn't going to find the same bug tomorrow.

All of which is to say that an illegal buyer is going to have to be either extremely rich or extremely confident that you're better than the other researchers working on the same problem to be willing to pay big for it, and you're going to be under a lot more scrutiny if you suddenly get rich.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
amartinez1660 Avatar
45 months ago

Apple has the obligation under the law to provide any data the NSA request, that includes all of the customer's data.

I thought only Chinese companies are required to do that! /s
Any data they have which is why all the “please make a backdoor access or else” threats and pushes have been a thing. Since Apple DOES NOT have access to the data, the best they can do is give a handful of an encrypted soup... and then good luck with that.

See, Apple has protected the consumer and themselves, rippling into protecting privacy at large, by making sure that they don’t at all cost collect any sensitive or identifying information. I understand that one of the weakest links was iCloud but two factor authentication has increased security there... in other countries not having the information ready when asked could at best mean being displaced by a new puppet that would or even execution for treason at worst.

I come from Venezuela, in 2001 a petition was signed to let the president be let go, call it an impeachment of sorts... but that ended up in 20K+ workers getting axed from their positions, especially if linked to public sector or a private company with public sector contracts and ties, because the government basically used it as a trap to see who was on their side... I left a long time ago, but that happens often. From getting fired to kidnapped to never seen ever again.
Trust me when I say that no, the US is nowhere near close what happens in other countries, by far, I get the sentiment that it seems to steer in the wrong direction badly but it’s for sure on time for the proper corrections.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CarlJ Avatar
45 months ago

How many copies you think the NSA is getting?
How sure are you that this phone would add something to all that NSA already knows?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)