Those of you who have been diligent in securing your iOS devices with passcodes, wiping and Find My iPhone, just to have a thief restore your device and keep on going – well – your prayers have been answered. Coming in iOS 7 is a great feature called ‘Activation Lock’.
With Activation Lock enabled, even if your iPhone or iPad is restored to its factory settings, the user will need to activate the device using the Apple ID of the previous user. Also, if the device was put into Lost Mode in Find My iPhone, the lock screen will continue to display the fact that it is lost until the device is activated.
This is a hugely useful feature that, if used properly, will make iPhones and iPads a significantly less attractive target to thieves, as the stolen devices would be rendered useless to them. It was nice to see Apple address one of the main concerns that users have been expressing about the bypass-ability of Find My iPhone. Check out Protecting and Recovering Your iPhone and iPad from Loss and Theft (will be updated soon with this new feature).
In a vulnerability that’s quite similar to one in iOS 4.1 a couple years ago, another lockscreen bypass has been discovered in iOS 6.1 which allows someone with physical access to your iPhone to make calls, view and modify your contacts, send an email to your contacts, listen to your voicemail, and access your photos (by attempting to add one of these to a contact).
The method for this bypass is fairly simple (see the video below for it in action):
- Swipe to unlock and then tap Emergency Call
- Make an emergency call (eg. 112/911) and immediately cancel it (please don’t unnecessarily call the emergency services ;)
- Press the power button twice
- Slide to unlock
- Hold down the power button for a couple seconds and then tap Emergency Call again.
I should point out that this doesn’t seem to work on my iPhone 4 for some reason. Something does happen, but I just get a black screen until I press something whereupon I’m booted back to the lock screen.
I know I’ve been pretty bad with posting recently, but I’m hoping to rectify that soon. It’s been a hectic year, and haven’t had as much time to blog as before. Got a couple reviews and articles in the pipeline, and will soon be updating my guide on Security Mac OS X for Mountain Lion.
Watch this space! :)
There have been reports (and here) of iOS 5.1 containing a camera bypass tied to the new camera shortcut on the lock screen. The people who have reported this are sadly confused about the security timeout enforced by iOS’s Require Passcode setting (Settings > General > Passcode Lock > Require Passcode). If your Require Passcode setting is set to anything other than Immediately, then your device (and the camera roll from the camera shortcut) will be accessible for the entire duration of time specified (ie. 1 minute or 5 minutes).
As always, the best setting for Require Passcode is Immediately. That way you know that when you lock your device, it is actually locked, and will prevent someone from gaining access to it without the passcode within the minutes following the ‘lock’.
Sadly people seem all too eager to rush and report on iOS vulns before actually verifying them.
TDLR; There is no lock screen bypass in iOS 5.1 using the new camera shortcut. They were wrong.
These are the apps that I will install first on pretty much any new Mac that I get. I’m a huge fan of free and open source software, and no other platform has free software of the same quality and calibre as Mac OS X. Most of these are Mac-only apps (a couple are cross-platform). I’m listing free applications wherever possible, but if there is a paid-for app that I consider best-of-breed, I mention those too. Hopefully this list will help all of the techie switchers get the apps they need quickly. This list is a work-in-progress, so I’ll be adding to this it over time.
If you’re only interested in my recommended security apps, they’re at the bottom! Feel free to post in the comments if you have any you think are worth mentioning.
Last updated: 14/04/2015
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!
I’ve been into lockpicking for a few years now, and I’m surprised I’ve never posted more about it (maybe I will). Suffice it to say that lockpicking is great fun, you learn a lot, and one day it may come in handy (legally of course). One thing I’ve noticed whenever I talk about lockpicking, is that most people -including techies – have very little clue about how locks themselves actually work. It’s no surprise then that lockpicking feels like a bit of mystery to many. In reality the majority of locks are very simple devices, and many can be picked or bypassed using fairly simple tools.
I had the pleasure of taking part in the Defcon 19 Gringo Warrior contest where participants must bypass a series of locks to ‘escape’. It’s scored based on time and difficult of locks picked. I scored about above average. In this post I’m going to give my own shotgun intro to lockpicking, and provide some videos and links to other useful references where you can go find more detail.
Although I haven’t had the chance to play with her myself (does that sound wrong?), Siri seems like an awesome addition to the iPhone. It’s worth pointing out, however, that it is still possible to use Siri when the iPhone is locked – presumably for convenient ease-of-use. Unfortunately this means that anyone with physical access to your phone can access information including contacts, calendar items, SMS/iMessages, and also make calls and send emails or messages from you.
[Update] There have been a whole bunch of people crying about how this is a major security flaw. Just to dispel some of the myth… this is not a security flaw, it’s a design decision that Apple made based on usability. Yes, it’s a default setting that may introduce some vulnerabilities, but then again there are still lots of people who run around without passcodes. To be honest I’m usually the first to secure the hell out of everything, but in this case I feel they made the right decision for two reasons. First, Siri is obviously less useful as a hands-free assistant if you need to unlock your phone every time; and secondly making it easier to use will help drive the adoption of Siri.
Luckily Apple thought of this on at least two levels. First, if you ask Siri to unlock your iPhone she’ll respectfully tell you that she “can’t unlock your phone for you”. Secondly – and this is the important one – it is possible to disable the use of Siri when the iPhone is locked. The option now lives in Settings > General > Passcode Lock, where you can set Siri to Off.
Needless to say (contrary to the screenshot), I recommend setting ‘Require Passcode’ to Immediately, turn Simple Passcode off so you can set a 5-or-more-digit PIN, set ‘Siri’ to off to prevent access when your iPhone is locked, and turn on Erase Data after 10 failed passcode attempts.
Siri is great, but let’s not make it easy for someone to social-engineer her into betraying you. See my other post for more details on protecting your iPhone from loss and theft.
In other news… you can tell Siri to use a specific nickname when talking to you. It’s important to note, however, that the nickname will be put into your VCard. So be careful if you tell her to call you her pimp, and then send someone your contact details ;)
The complexity of passwords is indeed something that has recently flipped into the realm of impossibility for us humans. In order to get any kind of decent cracking-resistant password these days you’re probably looking at having a password of at least 15 characters, making heavy use of uppercase, lowercase, symbols, etc. Very few people will be willing to commit that to memory, and if they do, they’ll be even less likely to change it on a regular basis.
The XKCD comic below shows that point pretty simply. It’s not actually that bad to use dictionary words, as long as they’re unrelated and you chain many of them together. The reason this works is because instead of picking from a character set of 26 letters, 10 digits and 20 symbols (total=56), you’re now selecting from a character set that is as large as the dictionary (~150,000 words). If you select four words of about 5 characters or more, the potential keyspace an attacker has to guess will be enormous – especially if you throw in a few symbols for good measure ;)
The planets and stars have aligned, and it turns out I’ll be at BlackHat and Defcon this year! I’ve never gone, although I’ve been wanting to for many years, so it’s definitely an exciting first for me. My awesome gf pushed me to finally go ;) There are plenty of people from the security community that I know online, but I’m eager to finally meet them in person. Any of you guys (or gals) going? I’m currently on the hunt for some decent Defcon parties; hook me up if you know of any! Las Vegas baby, here we come.