iPhone security flaw puts keychain passwords at risk

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Vulnerabilities

McAfee released its McAfee’s Q4 Threat Reportearlier this week, indicating a sharp rise in mobile-based malware attacks from 2009 to 2010 and forecasting more of the same for the coming year. Users of Apple products haven’t ever really needed to show much concern for security threats as the company’s computers are largely considered to be “virus safe” in many regards. The same is not true of the iPhonehowever, as a group of German researchers recently discovered.

It took the group of researchers at Fraunhofer Institute Secure Information Technology just six minutes to retrieve private information like stored passwords from the iPhone’s innards without ever cracking its master passcode. Apple products use a password management system called keychain which can be accessed directly in the device’s file system following a jailbreak, with no passcode required. The actual password retrieval process is somewhat complicated and heavy on the tech jargon, but it basically boils down to the fact that the keychain data is both separate from the device’s encrypted passcode and easier to access.

“As soon as attackers are in the possession of an iPhone or iPad and have removed the device’s SIM card, they can get a hold of e-mail passwords and access codes to corporate VPNs and WLANs as well,” the researchers said in a statement. “Control of an e-mail account allows the attacker to acquire even more additional passwords: For many web services such as social networks the attacker only has to request a password reset.”

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