Black Hat 2013 Researchers from Georgia Tech's Information Security Center (GTISC) claim to have found a way to sneak a malware-ridden app through Apple's inspection regime, and have also raised concerns about “malicious chargers” for iPhones.
The GTISC team explains its research here and claim to have created an app “which rearranges its own code to create new functionality that is not exhibited during Apple’s approval process. This allows the malicious aspects of the app to remain undetected when reviewed and therefore obtain Apple’s approval.”
The researchers claim to have published the app and that it “can successfully perform many malicious tasks, such as posting tweets, taking photos, sending email and SMS, and even attacking other apps – all without the user’s knowledge.”
The researchers also “decided to investigate the extent to which security threats were considered when performing everyday activities such as charging a device” and have created a “malicious charger” called "Mactans" to explore the issue.
The term is problematic on two fronts, the first of which is that the “charger” is not a charger but a single-board computer concealed within the carapace of a charger and packing software that allows it to rummage about in iOS' innards and do nasty things to them. The team found users who connect to this device can have lots of nasty damage done to their phones, which is hardly surprising.
That such an outcome is possible is not welcome: whatever iOS flaws make it possible for a single board machine to do naughty things clearly need to be addressed. Whether it is useful for world+dog to have the term “malicious charger” enter the lexicon is a different matter.
Happily, the second problem with “malicious chargers” has already been addressed by Apple, which has been noted by those who saw the Georgia Tech team speech at Black Hat.
Apple's pre-fix is a new iOS 7 feature that asks users if they trust the computer into which they have plugged their iThing. The Reg imagines that anyone plugging their high-fructose phone into a charger and finding that message would take a second, and far closer, look at their source of electrons before proceeding. ®