Tag Archives: Apple

What You Need To Know About The iMessage Security Flaw

With everything that’s gone down in 2016 it’s easy to forget Tim Cook’s and Apple’s battle with the FBI over data encryption laws. Apple took a strong stance though, and other tech giants followed suite leading to a victory of sorts for (the little guy in) online privacy. In this era of web exposure, it was a step in the right direction for those who feel our online identities are increasingly vulnerable on the web.

All of this stands for little though when a security flaw in your operating system allows carefully encrypted messages to be effectively decrypted offline. That’s what happened to Apple with its iOS 9.2 operating system. Though the patches that ensued largely fixed the problem, the whole issue has understandably left iOS users with questions. What really happened and are we at immediate risk?

What Is The iMessage Security Flaw?

A paper released in March by researchers at John Hopkins University exposed weaknesses in Apple’s iMessage encryption protocol. It was found that a determined hacker could intercept the encrypted messages between two iPhones and reveal the 64-digit key used to decrypt the messages.

As iMessage doesn’t use a Message Authentication Code (MAC) or authenticated encryption scheme, it’s possible for the raw encryption stream, or “ciphertext” to be tampered with. iMessage instead, uses an ECDSA signature which simulates the functionality. It’s still no easy feat exploiting the security flaw detailed by the researchers. The attacker would ultimately have to predict or know parts of the message they are decrypting in order to substitute these parts in the ciphertext.

Using this method, a hacker can gradually figure out the contents of a message by replacing words. If they figure out, for example, that they have successfully replaced the word “house” in the message for “flat” they know the message contains the word “house”. Knowing whether the substitution has been successful though, is a whole other process which may only be possible with attachment messages.

It may sound simple, but it really isn’t. The full details of the security flaw, and the complex way it can be exploited are detailed in the John Hopkins paper.
The paper includes the recommendation that, in the long run, “Apple should replace the entirety of iMessage with a messaging system that has been properly designed and formally verified.

Are iMessage Users At Immediate Risk?

Despite the recommendation, the answer is no. It is very unlikely. One thing that should be made clear is that these weaknesses were exposed as a result of months of investigation by an expert team of cryptologists. The type of hacker that would take advantage of these weaknesses would undeniably be a sophisticated attacker. That of course doesn’t mean that Apple shouldn’t take great measures to eradicate this vulnerability in their system.

Your messages, though, are not immediately at risk of being decrypted, and much less if you’ve installed the patches that came with iOS 9.3 and OS X 10.11.4 (though they don’t completely fix the problem). Tellingly, the flaws can’t be used to exploit numerous devices at the same time. As already mentioned, the process that was exposed by the John Hopskins paper is incredibly complex and relies on various steps that are by no means easy to complete successfully.

All of this means that it would take a very sophisticated attacker a complex and lengthy process (up to and beyond 70 hours) to decrypt one message. iMessage has a supported base of nearly one billion devices and handles more than 200,000 encrypted messages per second. We’ll let you do the math there but it seems highly unlikely that a hacker would try to exploit this weakness unless they’re trying to uncover very sensitive and important data.

A hacker would most likely carefully vet their target as someone who possesses valuable information that could then be contained within that person’s messages. If a hacker’s investing 70 hours of their time to uncover cat pics, the joke’s really on them.

Could this have any connection with the FBI encryption dispute?

Matthew D. Green, the well-known cryptographer and leader of the John Hopkins research team, has spoken with the Washington Post about the implications of his team’s research. “Even Apple, with all their skills -and they have terrific cryptographers- wasn’t able to quite get this right. So it scares me that we’re having this conversation about adding back doors to encryption when we can’t even get basic encryption right.

So you’d probably need the resources of say, the FBI, to pull off an attack exploiting the vulnerability exposed in the John Hopkins paper. It seems very unlikely that individuals would be targeted en masse. 2016 has been such a surreal year though, who are we to say what is and isn’t possible?

The post What You Need To Know About The iMessage Security Flaw appeared first on Panda Security Mediacenter.

Russia Wants Apple to Unlock iPhone belonging to Killer of Russian Ambassador

You might have also seen a viral video of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey that quickly spread through the Internet worldwide.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead by an off-duty police officer in Ankara on December 19 when the ambassador was giving a speech at an art gallery. The shooter managed to pretend himself as his official bodyguard and later shot to

Microsoft and Apple unveil new computers with improved security features

apple microsoft security

In events that took place on consecutive days, the two tech giants presented last week their new ‘weapons’ in the fight for computer supremacy. Whereas Microsoft has decided to go for more pricey, sophisticated and innovative computers, Apple has decided to stay with what the company knows works well and has limited itself to introducing some improvements in its acclaimed laptop computers.

The Redmond company has taken everyone by surprise by rolling out an ‘all-in-one’ device, Microsoft Studio, aimed at knocking the iMac off its perch as the favorite tool among creative pros. The new computer is one part PC, one part graphics tablet. It can be folded, allowing artists and designers to use it in a similar way to a tablet, while offering at the same time an extremely powerful computer very reminiscent of Apple’s iMac for all kinds of professionals.

Additionally, the company founded by Bill Gates has upgraded its Surface Book tablet and presented the new update of its Windows 10 operating system: Windows Creators Update. This new version is stuffed with new features, including the first revision in a long time of its security tool Windows Defender.

The program ditches its classic look and feel in favor of a more Windows 10-style appearance, with a responsive interface adapted to touch screens. It also looks like Windows Defender will be integrated with other tools, like Windows Firewall or Family Safety, allowing for central management of all security aspects of Microsoft’s operating system.

As for Apple, the new MacBook Pro features some significant enhancements with regards to security. First, it incorporates Touch ID for the first time ever. Touch ID, already present in the company’s iPhones, is a fingerprint scanner which, despite posing certain security risks, introduces a new mechanism to verify a user’s identity on Apple’s computers beyond traditional passwords.

This biometric security system will be integrated into Apple’s laptops through the new Touch Bar, a multi-touch strip located above the keyboard and which displays contextual menus and allows for different actions depending on the program you are using. With the Touch Bar, for example, you will be able to do something as simple as paying for an online purchase just by placing your finger on the small display.

If this were not enough, the new MacBook Pro comes equipped with a secondary processor that will perform all security-related tasks, including managing Touch ID and the new Touch Bar. This secondary processor includes what is called ‘Secure Enclave’ technology, specifically designed to manage personal and confidential data most securely.


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