Six university researchers have revealed deadly zero-day flaws in Apple's iOS and OS X, claiming it is possible to crack Apple's password-storing keychain, break app sandboxes, and bypass its App Store security checks.
Attackers can exploit these bugs to steal passwords from installed apps, including the native email client, without being detected.
The team was able to upload malware to Apple's app stores, and passed the vetting processes without triggering any alarms. That malware, when installed on a victim's Mac, raided the keychain to steal passwords for services including iCloud and the Mail app, and all those stored within Google Chrome.
Lead researcher Luyi Xing told El Reg he and his team complied with Apple's request to withhold publication of the research for six months, but had not heard back as of the time of writing.
They say the holes are still present in Apple's software, meaning their work will likely be consumed by miscreants looking to weaponize the work.
Apple was not available for immediate comment.
The Indiana University boffins Xing; Xiaolong Bai; XiaoFeng Wang; and Kai Chen joined Tongxin Li, of Peking University, and Xiaojing Liao, of Georgia Institute of Technology, to develop the research, which is detailed in a paper titled Unauthorized Cross-App Resource Access on Mac OS X and iOS.
"Recently we discovered a set of surprising security vulnerabilities in Apple's Mac OS and iOS that allows a malicious app to gain unauthorised access to other apps' sensitive data such as passwords and tokens for iCloud, Mail app and all web passwords stored by Google Chrome," Xing told The Register's security desk.
"Our malicious apps successfully went through Apple’s vetting process and was published on Apple’s Mac app store and iOS app store.
"We completely cracked the keychain service - used to store passwords and other credentials for different Apple apps - and sandbox containers on OS X, and also identified new weaknesses within the inter-app communication mechanisms on OS X and iOS which can be used to steal confidential data from Evernote, Facebook and other high-profile apps."
The team was able to raid banking credentials from Google Chrome on the latest OS X 10.10.3, using a sandboxed app to steal the system's keychain data and secret iCloud tokens, and passwords from password vaults.
Photos were stolen from WeChat, and the token for popular cloud service Evernote was nabbed, allowing it to be fully compromised.