Apple fixes bugs: One flaw let attackers grab iPhones with booby-trapped JPEG

While iOS 10.1 brought the iPhone 7 Plus new Portrait mode for its dual camera, smaller and older iPhones get security patches.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

One bug that Apple has patched could give an attacker control of an iPhone or iPad simply by having the user view a malicious JPEG.

Image: Apple

Apple has released the first security updates for iPhone and Mac hardware since launching its private bug-bounty scheme.

As much as $200,000 is up for grabs to any of the elite hackers Apple has invited to take part in the scheme. The company invited participants for a briefing on the program in late September, Forbes recently reported.

Apple, a late-comer to the practice of paying researchers, announced the program in August with the top rewards restricted to attacks on security firmware that ensures the integrity of software running on its devices.

Unlike Google's habit of publishing rewards for bugs in Chrome, Apple hasn't said whether any of Monday's patches qualified for a payment under its private bug bounty scheme. Still, the fixes highlight the importance of third-party researchers to Apple software security. Apple is attributed to just one of the 12 bugs patched in the iOS 10.1 release.

Among these externally-found bugs is one from a researcher from Tencent's KeenLab, which could give an attacker control of an iPhone or iPad by having the user simply view a malicious JPEG. The same bug was patched in macOS Sierra 10.12.1, which was also released on Monday.

Google's bug hunters at Project Zero continue to help secure Apple software, with this month's contribution addressing a bug that allowed an application to execute arbitrary code with root privileges. Project Zero also helped plug an issue in iOS' system boot that could allow an attacker in possession of the device to execute arbitrary code in the kernel.

A memory fix for Safari's WebKit browser engine will also prevent hackers from using a malicious website to attack iPhones, iPads and Mac devices, while a clean-up of the iOS sandbox should prevent attackers stealing metadata of audio-recording and photo directories.

Apple on Monday also released Safari 10.0.1 for OS X Yosemite v10.10.5, OS X El Capitan v10.11.6, and macOS Sierra 10.12, which contains three fixes for the WebKit.

Apple's latest desktop OS, macOS Sierra has moved to 10.12.1, bringing fixes for 12 issues in Sierra 10.12, as well as the latest Safari fixes. It also has patches for older pre-macOS Mac OS X. Until yesterday's patch, Macs running OS X El Capitan could have been owned by an attacker after processing a maliciously-crafted PDF.

With a new version of iOS out, Apple has also fixed related bugs in watchOS and tvOS for the Apple Watch and AppleTV, respectively. WatchOS 3.1 includes fixes for eight flaws, while tvOS 10.0.1 addresses 11 security flaws.

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