JUST DAYS AFTER APPLE announced that it would be providing hacker-friendly iPhones and generous bug bounties to security partners, a vulnerability has been revealed in eight years' worth of iOS devices. Worse, it builds on an exploit that's been known about for four years.
Apple Insider received the 4,000 word report by security researchers at Check Point which highlights a vulnerability in the iPhone and iPad's Contacts app. More specifically, it targets its reliance on the SQLite database format that's used pretty much everywhere from Windows 10 and macOS to Safari, Firefox and Android.
"Wait, what? How come a four-year-old bug has never been fixed?", the researchers write, channeling everyone's thought process. "This feature was only ever considered vulnerable in the context of a program that allows arbitrary SQL from an untrusted source and so it was mitigated accordingly. However, SQLite usage is so versatile that we can actually still trigger it in many scenarios."
Essentially, Apple hadn't prioritised the bug because it was believed it could only be triggered by an unknown application with access to the database. As iOS has no unknown apps, it shouldn't have been a problem, the logic went.
But Check Point has proved that isn't the case, replacing a component in the Contacts app directly. More importantly, the code remained on the device after reboot, as SQLite databases aren't signed, and thus passed Apple's Secure Boot process without interrogation.
Once altered, the researchers just needed to pick something mischievous to happen when the Contacts database was searched. They picked it crashing the app but could have made something to steal passwords, say.
Ok, it's still not exactly a high-risk for most people, given it involves you willingly unlocking your phone for a hacker, then turning a blind eye while they meddle with the Contacts app. But it's still a vulnerability, and shows the risks of ignoring the low-priority bugs: they're only low-risk until somebody makes them high-risk. µ
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