Despite stiff competition from other mobile manufacturers, Apple still rules the roost. According to CNN, the company posted its best-ever quarter in the latter part of 2014, selling almost 75 million iPhones in just three months. However, all these devices make for tempting targets. Mobile security firm Skycure has uncovered an iOS 8 vulnerability that leverages fake wireless hot spots and compromised Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates to create a “no iOS zone.”

Stung by SSL?

Using SSL certificates is an industry-standard best practice; almost every app for sale on iTunes uses SSL as a matter of course. According to a recent Skycure blog post, however, Chief Technology Officer Yair Amit and his team uncovered a bug in the certificates being pushed to their Apple devices.

It started when they bought and configured a new wireless router and then noticed apps on iPhones in the room began to crash. After some digging, the security firm found that by using specially crafted SSL certificates, it was possible to create a bug that let attackers crash any SSL-dependent app on command.

What’s more, prolonged use of the device caused iOS to crash, as well. Under certain circumstances, the Skycure team found they could also put the phone into a constant reboot cycle, preventing users from fixing the problem. Of course, this iOS 8 vulnerability depends on a Wi-Fi connection; it’s not possible to manipulate SSL certificates in this way over cellular networks.

Who Watches the Wi-Fi?

Of course, users that rely on cellular connections were unaffected since this SSL-based iOS 8 vulnerability is only exploitable across Wi-Fi connections. However, as noted by CSO Online, that’s no guarantee of safety since many mobile carriers preconfigure smartphones to automatically connect if they’re in range of subscriber networks. To simplify this process, networks have a very limited name set. For instance, in the United Kingdom, devices using Vodafone’s infrastructure will automatically connect to networks named “1WifiVodafone1x” or “Auto-BTWifi.” What’s more, users can’t turn off this feature without completely disabling their Wi-Fi.

This naming scheme makes it easy for cybercriminals to uncover the most common network handles. Using the WiFiGate technique, also discovered by Skycure, attackers could set up a fake network that devices would automatically detect and access. Then, modified SSL certificates could knock out iOS devices and make them unusable. At the coffee shop or restaurant level, this threat amounts to little more than a minor inconvenience, but if deployed in an area that sees heavy mobile use for business — such as Wall Street or Silicon Valley — this iOS 8 vulnerability could become a large-scale distributed denial-of-service attack.

So far, there is no fix for the SSL/WiFiGate flaw, but Skycure is working with Apple to resolve the problem and is keeping mum about some of the more pertinent technical details. No attacks have been reported, but it’s a sobering reminder that secure and familiar doesn’t always mean safe and sound.

Image Source: iStock

More from

Who Carries the Weight of a Cyberattack?

Almost immediately after a company discovers a data breach, the finger-pointing begins. Who is to blame? Most often, it is the chief information security officer (CISO) or chief security officer (CSO) because protecting the network infrastructure is their job. Heck, it is even in their job title: they are the security officer. Security is their responsibility. But is that fair – or even right? After all, the most common sources of data breaches and other cyber incidents are situations caused…

Transitioning to Quantum-Safe Encryption

With their vast increase in computing power, quantum computers promise to revolutionize many fields. Artificial intelligence, medicine and space exploration all benefit from this technological leap — but that power is also a double-edged sword. The risk is that threat actors could abuse quantum computers to break the key cryptographic algorithms we depend upon for the safety of our digital world. This poses a threat to a wide range of critical areas. Fortunately, alternate cryptographic algorithms that are safe against…

Abuse of Privilege Enabled Long-Term DIB Organization Hack

From November 2021 through January 2022, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) responded to an advanced cyberattack on a Defense Industrial Base (DIB) organization’s enterprise network. During that time frame, advanced persistent threat (APT) adversaries used an open-source toolkit called Impacket to breach the environment and further penetrate the organization’s network. Even worse, CISA reported that multiple APT groups may have hacked into the organization’s network. Data breaches such as these are almost always the result of compromised endpoints…

How Do You Plan to Celebrate National Computer Security Day?

In October 2022, the world marked the 19th Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October might be over, but employers can still talk about awareness of digital threats. We all have another chance before then: National Computer Security Day. The History of National Computer Security Day The origins of National Computer Security Day trace back to 1988 and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control. As noted by National Today, those in…