iOS 14 Features New 'BlastDoor' Messages Security System

iOS 14 added a new "BlastDoor" sandbox security system to iPhones and iPads to prevent attacks carried out with the Messages app. Apple didn't share information on the new security addition, but it was explained today by Samuel Groß, a security researcher with Google's Project Zero, and highlighted by ZDNet.

messages pinned conversations ios 14
Groß describes BlastDoor as a tightly sandboxed service that's responsible for parsing all of the untrusted data in iMessages. A sandbox is a security service that executes code separately from the OS, and this one operates within the Messages app.

BlastDoor takes a look at all incoming messages and inspects their content in a secure environment, which prevents any malicious code inside of a message from interacting with iOS or accessing user data.

project zero blastdoor

As can be seen, the majority of the processing of complex, untrusted data has been moved into the new BlastDoor service. Furthermore, this design with its 7+ involved services allows fine-grained sandboxing rules to be applied, for example, only the IMTransferAgent and apsd processes are required to perform network operations. As such, all services in this pipeline are now properly sandboxed (with the BlastDoor service arguably being sandboxed the strongest).

The feature has been designed to thwart specific attack types, such as those where hackers used shared cache or brute force attacks. As ZDNet points out, security researchers have been finding iMessage remote code execution bugs over the past few years that could allow an iPhone to be infiltrated with just a text, which BlastDoor should address.

Groß found the new ‌iOS 14‌ feature after investigating a Messages hacking campaign that targeted Al Jazeera journalists. The attack wasn't working in ‌iOS 14‌, and investigating why led to his discovery of BlastDoor.

According to Groß, Apple's BlastDoor changes are "close to the best that could've been done given the need for backwards compatibility," and will make the iMessage platform significantly more secure.

This blog post discussed three improvements in ‌iOS 14‌ affecting iMessage security: the BlastDoor service, resliding of the shared cache, and exponential throttling. Overall, these changes are probably very close to the best that could've been done given the need for backwards compatibility, and they should have a significant impact on the security of iMessage and the platform as a whole.

It's great to see Apple putting aside the resources for these kinds of large refactorings to improve end users' security. Furthermore, these changes also highlight the value of offensive security work: not just single bugs were fixed, but instead structural improvements were made based on insights gained from exploit development work.

Those interested in the full rundown on how BlastDoor works can visit the Project Zero blog post on the subject.

Top Rated Comments

Brandon42 Avatar
20 weeks ago

How am I really suppose to trust that my messages aren't being passed through a government server ??
I checked with the FBI van that always parks outside and they say you can trust the government in this situation.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jaworskimatt Avatar
20 weeks ago

So yeah, your messages are already on a govt server, before they hit your iPhone or any phone.
Not with end to end encryption, they aren't - which is why everyone should care about that. And why govts are slowly gearing up to outlaw "unbreakable" encryption.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
20 weeks ago

Hopefully not. No point in giving bad actors any kind of advantage in defeating iOS security.
Security through obscurity is not a good strategy
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Osamede Avatar
20 weeks ago

How am I really suppose to trust that my messages aren't being passed through a government server ??
Snowden is stuck in exile and still no one seems to grasp what he revealed that got him in trouble: the government ( or a least the government where he was from) collects ALL your data, everybody’s data, period.

So yeah, your messages are already on a govt server, before they hit your iPhone or any phone.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coolfactor Avatar
20 weeks ago
I love the fun names that Apple comes up with for these features.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hot-gril Avatar
20 weeks ago

Not with end to end encryption, they aren't - which is why everyone should care about that. And why govts are slowly gearing up to outlaw "unbreakable" encryption.
We have low visibility into Apple's code, and even if it were open src, we'd not know whether their servers are always giving us the correct identities for others we message. Also, if your messages are backed up on iCloud, that's not e2ee'd, according to Apple.

Not to sound paranoid. I use it anyway. It's just not airtight.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16 inch macbook pro m2 render

When Can We Expect the Redesigned MacBook Pros Now?

Wednesday June 16, 2021 7:11 am PDT by
With no sign of redesigned MacBook Pro models at this year's WWDC, when can customers expect the much-anticipated new models to launch? A number of reports, including investor notes from Morgan Stanley and Wedbush analysts, claimed that new MacBook Pro models would be coming during this year's WWDC. This did not happen, much to the disappointment of MacBook Pro fans, who have been...
2021 back t0 school

Apple Launches 2021 Back to School Promotion: Free AirPods With Eligible Mac or iPad Purchase

Thursday June 17, 2021 4:56 am PDT by
Apple today launched its seasonal back-to-school sale for the upcoming school year in the United States and Canada, offering students free AirPods alongside purchases of select Macs and iPad models. Similar to last year's promotion, this year's offer includes free AirPods alongside the purchase of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, the new 24-inch iMac, the Mac Pro, Mac mini, and the new M1-powered ...
maxresdefault

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Sideloading Apps Would 'Destroy the Security' of the iPhone

Wednesday June 16, 2021 10:49 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning participated in a virtual interview at the VivaTech conference, which is described as Europe's biggest startup and tech event. Cook was interviewed by Guillaume Lacroix, CEO and founder of Brut, a media company that creates short-form video content. Much of the discussion centered on privacy, as it often does in interviews that Cook participates in. He...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Says iOS Picture-in-Picture Coming to All US Users

Friday June 18, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
After a long wait, YouTube for iOS is officially gaining picture-in-picture support, allowing all users, non-premium and premium subscribers, to close the YouTube app and continue watching their video in a small pop-up window. In a statement to MacRumors, YouTube says that picture-in-picture is currently rolling out to all premium subscribers on iOS and that a larger rollout to all US iOS...
applecare lower prices

Apple Lowers Prices of AppleCare+ Plans for M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Thursday June 17, 2021 7:33 am PDT by
Apple today lowered the prices of AppleCare+ plans for MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with the M1 chip. Coverage offered by the plans, as well as accidental damage fees, appear to remain unchanged. In the United States, AppleCare+ for the MacBook Air now costs $199, down from $249. The new price applies to both M1 and Intel-based MacBook Air models, although Apple no...
m1 v intel thumb

Intel Processor Market Share May Fall to New Low Next Year Due to Apple Silicon

Friday June 18, 2021 2:06 am PDT by
Intel may see its market share fall to a new low next year, in large part thanks to Apple's decision to move away from using Intel processors in its Mac computers and instead use Apple silicon. Apple announced last year that it would embark on a two-year-long journey to transition all of its Mac computers, both desktops, and laptops, to use its own in-house processors. Apple is expected to...
apple watch edition series 5 ceramic black prototype

Apple Planned Black Ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 5

Wednesday June 16, 2021 5:45 am PDT by
Apple considered offering a black version of the ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 5, according to newly-shared images of the prototype casing. The images, shared on Twitter by the prototype collector and leaker known as "Mr. White," show a prototype black ceramic Apple Watch casing, alongside the white ceramic version. The ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 5 was never available in a...
maxresdefault

Demo: Check Out AirPlay 2 on a Mac in macOS Monterey

Tuesday June 15, 2021 11:57 am PDT by
With macOS Monterey, Apple has introduced expanded AirPlay 2 support, so you can AirPlay content from an iPhone, iPad, or even another Mac to your main Mac. We thought we'd do a quick demo of this handy new feature in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. With AirPlay to Mac, you can extend or mirror an Apple device's display to a Mac, and since ...
app store blue banner

U.S. Antitrust Legislation Would Require Users to Be Able to Delete All Pre-Installed Apple Apps [Updated]

Wednesday June 16, 2021 11:26 am PDT by
Update: Bloomberg inaccurately interpreted the original comments and has since drastically changed the wording of its article. The original Bloomberg piece said that Apple would be prohibited from pre-installing its own apps on iPhones. The updated Bloomberg article has been rewritten to clarify that the antitrust legislation prohibits Apple from preventing users from removing Apple-created...
3nm apple silicon feature

Apple Supplier TSMC Readies 3nm Chip Production for Second Half of 2022

Friday June 18, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMC is preparing to produce 3nm chips in the second half of 2022, and in the coming months, the supplier will begin production of 4nm chips, according to a new report from DigiTimes. Apple had previously booked the initial capacity of TSMC's 4nm chip production for future Macs and more recently ordered TSMC to begin production of the A15 chip for the upcoming iPhone 13,...