Apple Apologizes to Researcher for Ignoring iOS Vulnerabilities, Says It's 'Still Investigating'

Last week, security researcher Denis Tokarev made several zero-day iOS vulnerabilities public after he said that Apple had ignored his reports and had failed to fix the issues for several months.

iPhone 13 Security
Tokarev today told Motherboard that Apple got in touch after he went public with his complaints and after they saw significant media attention. In an email, Apple apologized for the contact delay and said that it is "still investigating" the issues.

"We saw your blog post regarding this issue and your other reports. We apologize for the delay in responding to you," an Apple employee wrote. "We want to let you know that we are still investigating these issues and how we can address them to protect customers. Thank you again for taking the time to report these issues to us, we appreciate your assistance. Please let us know if you have any questions."

Apple did fix one of the vulnerabilities in iOS 14.7, but did not provide Tokarev with credit. Three others remain unaddressed, including a Game Center bug that allegedly allows any app installed from the App Store to access full Apple ID email and name, ‌Apple ID‌ authentication tokens, lists of contacts, and some attachments.

Details on all of the zero-day vulnerabilities have been published publicly by Tokarev, which may prompt Apple to fix them faster.

Tokarev first contacted Apple about these bugs between March 10 and May 4, so Apple has had months to issue patches, but it's worth noting that several security researchers and Tokarev himself have confirmed that the bugs are not highly critical as exploiting them would require a malicious app to first receive ‌App Store‌ approval.

Still, experts have criticized Apple's response and its bug bounty program. Cybersecurity expert Katie Moussouris told Motherboard that Apple's handling of the process is "not normal and should not be considered normal," while researcher Nicholas Ptacek said that Apple's response comes across as a "reaction to bad press."

Earlier this month, The Washington Post interviewed more than two dozen security researchers to expose the flaws in Apple's bug bounty program. Researchers said that Apple is slow to fix bugs and doesn't always pay out what's owed, leading researchers to be unhappy with Apple's program.

At the time, Apple's Head of Security Engineering and Architecture, Ivan Krstić, said that Apple is "planning to introduce new rewards for researchers" to expand participation, and that Apple is working toward offering new and even better research tools.

Top Rated Comments

Realityck Avatar
9 months ago
No question that Apple needs to greatly improve on their interaction with bug bounty participants.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
code-m Avatar
9 months ago
Stop creating more issues with your users with CSAM and patch the existing vulnerabilities. I feel CSAM is just another hole to be exploited in the future.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Dee Avatar
9 months ago
So, to get Apples attention these days you have to use the ‘go to the media whipping belt’.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MathersMahmood Avatar
9 months ago
My gosh not a good week for Tim Apple is it.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple_Robert Avatar
9 months ago
Looks like Apple was attempting some damage control. No excuse for Apple ignoring someone pointing out important vulnerabilities in the OS.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
scheinderrob Avatar
9 months ago
apple has one of, if not the worst bounty programs i've ever seen. i wonder how many vulnerabilities are being sold on the dark web because apple is too cheap. and i don't even blame the hackers. finding these takes a lot of time and skill.

i've been out of it for a while now but untethered jailbreaks used to be worth a million. probably more now.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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