New security flaw opens iPhone, iPads to covert keylogging

New security flaw opens iPhone, iPads to covert keylogging

Summary: A new iOS flaw has been discovered which could allow hackers to record every keystroke made on an Apple device -- jailbroken or not.

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TOPICS: Security, Apple, Apps, iOS
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Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 08.46.12
Credit: FireEye

On the back of Apple being scrutinized over an SSL flaw, researchers claim to have discovered another vulnerability which could allow hackers to log your keystrokes before sending such data to a remote server.

First spotted by Ars Technica, the security team at FireEye have developed a proof-of-concept application which could, in theory, run in the background of your mobile device and log your keystrokes without your knowledge.

In a blog post, the researchers say that this background monitoring can take place on both jailbroken and non-jailbroken devices running iOS 7. After developing the "monitoring" application on non-jailbroken iOS 7 devices, the team tweaked the app to record all the user touch/press events in the background, including touches on the screen, home button pressing, volume button pressing and TouchID, before sending this data to a remote server of their choosing.

FireEye says that this type of "flaw" could be used by potential attackers in order to break in to user accounts and spy on them, by duping them in to downloading a malicious application, conducting a phishing campaign, or by exploiting another remote vulnerability of an application.

The demo app exploited the latest 7.0.4 version of iOS system on a non-jailbroken iPhone 5s successfully, but the team verified the vulnerability also exists in other iOS versions. However, the researchers do not detail the workarounds.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 08.47.32

Furthermore, FireEye states that disabling iOS7's "background app refresh" feature will not block the vulnerability as it can still be bypassed -- as an example, an app can play background music without the use of this feature, and so a malicious application could use similar techniques.

According to Ars, a separate brief was posted detailing the research but was quickly removed. Reportedly, part of the brief stated:

"FireEye successfully delivered a proof-of-concept monitoring app through the App Store that records user activity and sends it to a remote server. We have been collaborating with Apple on this issue."

The latest scrutiny of Apple security comes as the tech giant quickly released a patch last Friday for an overlooked SSL encryption flaw which left iPhone, iPad and Mac devices open to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. The SSL (Secure Socket Layer) vulnerability allowed hackers to intercept and steal communications data including email and login credentials due to a lack of SSL/TLS hostname checking, which meant that data which should have been encrypted was not.

However, the patch only covers the iPhone 4 and up, 5th generation iPod Touch and 2nd generation iPad. It is not known when a patch will be issued for Mac computers.

Topics: Security, Apple, Apps, iOS

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51 comments
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  • iPhone is most vulnerable, least secure smartphone in the market, security

    "iPhone is most vulnerable, least secure smartphone in the market, security firm finds."

    iPhone/iPad is a very dangerous device
    Jiří Pavelec
    • Which, of course, explains

      Why there are so many compromised iPhones in the wild. Oh. Wait. There aren't.
      baggins_z
      • there aren't?

        there aren't? no, there are but you just don't know that, wake up boy :)
        Jiří Pavelec
        • Attitude...

          My concern is for user security no matter what system they mash on. Your writing implies you have an agenda more than a concern.
          partman1969
        • Flawed logic

          If there are any, then show me one. And then explain how the flaw was exploited. Seems to me that ANY application that accesses the keyboard could do this, on ANY phone. Evidence, please.
          rphunter42
          • I find this interesting as well.

            Do you ever find it funny how when you read these articles (anti- Apple) they use words such as "could", "In theory" and "might" not just a few times but thrown all over the place. I too am interested in actual proven exploits. Does anyone remember LOVEBUG and other malware that clogged the internet (who's fault was that)?
            I know no operating system is perfect. I run far more Windows systems for both my enjoyment, and employment and I'm elated that 7 has been such a blessing to me for not only security, and usability but also entertainment (DVR capability in media center 7 has even saved me money on my cable bills).
            I am not a fan of the GUI in Windows 8 and frequently (as do many other Windows users) bash it, and much activity at Microsoft only substantiates my disapproval.
            As for articles such as these, I wonder is there any real meat to them or are they just trying to appeal to a different base on a different day?
            partman1969
          • You are right and wrong

            The appeal to a different base on a different day might be the case, but the infantile look at security problems by most users as irrelevant because it has yet to bite them in the a_s is beyond ignorance.
            On top of that you have 24/7 marketing to have you use both your mobile devices and home PCs to use the poorly secured online banking services and cloud services for data storage.
            In an age where government security and military departments are hacked why would the mindless consumers think they are immunized from attacks because of some firm in Cupertino tells them so.
            The great Apple con is only as viable as their followers allow them to be.
            sickntired44
          • Infantile?

            I would say proportionate. Don't forget most people are insignificant, they don't place any value on their 'information' and rightfully so. What would someone gain from physical access to joe averges's HTC1?
            I don't run any security software on my phone or tablet. Desktops and laptops all run multi-level protection but until I hear that these theoretical mobile exploits are having a real world effect, I'll just keep to basic security principles. In that respect, for 'most users', that means sticking to play/apple/winstore for apps, and that's sufficient.
            Little Old Man
          • The iPhone is more vulnerable

            "
            The iPhone is more vulnerable to security attacks and hacks than Android, BlackBerry, and Windows-based smartphones combined, according to security company SourceFire, which has released a ‘25 Years of Vulnerabilities’ study.

            The firm’s report puts the vulnerability market share of Apple’s iPhone at a staggering 81 per cent, followed by Android smartphones at 9 per cent, Windows-based phones at 6 per cent, and BlackBerry at just 4 per cent.
            "
            Jiří Pavelec
        • 89-98% of ALL malware is on Android; you could not even see iOS in the ...

          ... statistics -- this small the share is.
          DDERSSS
          • statistics: Android = almost zero infection ;)

            statistics: Android = almost zero infection ;)
            wake up
            Jiří Pavelec
    • Oooooooooooo.......scary!

      OK, maybe not so scary! Next time, really scary! Scare even Count Floyd! Awoooooooooooooo!
      thetwonkey
      • The iPhone is more vulnerable

        "
        The iPhone is more vulnerable to security attacks and hacks than Android, BlackBerry, and Windows-based smartphones combined, according to security company SourceFire, which has released a ‘25 Years of Vulnerabilities’ study.

        The firm’s report puts the vulnerability market share of Apple’s iPhone at a staggering 81 per cent, followed by Android smartphones at 9 per cent, Windows-based phones at 6 per cent, and BlackBerry at just 4 per cent.
        "
        Jiří Pavelec
        • Oh! Now I'm shaking in my boots! On, noooooooooooos!!!

          Oh, that's right - I don't have any boots. Maybe I'll just shake my booty.
          thetwonkey
        • More than just stats

          It is generally the firm belief by iOS users that iOS and associated devices are just plain "secure".

          Sadly scary.
          rhonin
          • Not Just a belief...

            It's more of a religion. You point out the obvious facts to them and they come back with insults (just look at some of the other comments). That Apple / Mac / iWhatever is more secure is not only Dogma, it's demonstrably wrong, and dangerous to those users and the people they advise (to buy into the iOS ecosystem).

            Its funny how these stories about Apple's vulnerabilities are coming out more and more, and last couple have been pretty big.
            mcmurphy510
        • Then why does Android have all the malware?

          You don't see any of that on WP8 or iPhone.... I guess they don't count that?
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • Never seen any

            I hate to break it to you, but I've never actually seen any Android malware, nor have I ever heard of anyone affected by it. The existence of malware somewhere on a shady Chinese piracy website (or even hidden in the dark, neglected corners of Google Play) is hardly any more "real" to an ethical, common Android user than the mostly academic, theoretical threats to iOS presented in articles like that above.
            KiteX3
          • Honestly, I believe you..

            People say Windows OS is the most vulnerable to any malware, BUT I haven't seen any antivirus flags since Windows Millennium.
            I think it was that antivirus company that started an automatic scan. I can't even remember the name (its been so long ago).
            partman1969
          • virtually all malwares...

            ...Are added due to careless users who get their apps from questionable sources so they get what they deserve...and this is not about Android... This is about iOS... nice attempt at redirecting there..the fact of the matter is that iOS always had issues. IOS7 patched 80 security vulnerabilities. On the launch of said iOS7 there were 2 security flaw...in the lock screen no less... Just gives to show that Apple was complacent in their belief that they were the most secure or among the most secure, but it simply was and is not the case.
            Cory Ducey