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October 21, 2011

iPad Lock Screen Bypass Vulnerability using Smart Cover [Patched]

Marc Gurman at 9to5Mac has discovered a vulnerability on the iPad that allows for a limited bypass of the device’s lockscreen. Anyone with an iPad Smart Cover (or fridge magnet) can gain access to the previously-open app (or the home screen if no app was open).

By holding the power button to bring up the ‘Power Off’ screen, closing the smart cover, re-opening it (or just sliding a fridge magnet along the right-hand side of the device), and clicking cancel, the attacker will be dropped into the screen that was open before the iPad was locked. If the attacker gets dropped into the home screen, then they’ll be able to see the installed apps, but won’t be able to open anything. If Safari or Mail (or any other app) was the open when the device was locked, then the attacker would have access to that app.

Unlike Siri being available from the lock screen, which is not a security flaw (an unintended behaviour), this one actually is; and although an attacker does not get full control of the iPad, the severity depends on whether a sensitive app was being used before the device was locked.

Luckily it is possible to protect yourself against this bug in the interim by disabling Smart Covers in Settings > General > iPad Cover Lock/Unlock > Off. Expect Apple to patch this in iOS 5.0.1. Check out 9to5′s video below for a demonstration:

[Update] Apple did indeed patch this bug in iOS 5.0.1. Those of you who disabled your Smart Covers for security purposes can now re-enable them!

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