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article imageUnpatchable bootroom exploit could affect millions of iOS devices Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 28, 2019 in Technology
A rare, unpatchable bootroom exploit has been discovered affecting millions of iOS devices. Sam Bakken, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Mobile App Security at OneSpan explains more.
According to the website iPhone Hacks, an unpatchable bootrom exploit has been discovered that affects a range of iOS devices out there starting from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone X. The bootrom is called 'Checkm8'. According to The Verge, though, Checkm8 is one of the biggest jailbreaking developments in years due to the sheer scope of what it covers.
The bootrom exploit works on iOS devices with Apple A-series processors starting with Apple A5 from 2011 to the Apple A11 from 2017. A bootrom (or 'Boot ROM') is a small piece of mask ROM or write-protected flash embedded inside the processor chip. It is a form of 'jailbreaking' (in Apple-speak); jailbreaking permits root access in Apple's mobile operating system.
The main limitations with this cyber-threat is that an iOS device needs to be physically connected via USB for the initial jailbreak, and the exploit doesn’t work remotely. However, in such circumstances, the boorom can enable some third-party keyboards to access iPhone and iPad data without the user’s permission.
Speaking with Digital Journal, Sam Bakken, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Mobile App Security at OneSpan says this is just the latest in cyber-issue affecting both Apple and Google - and despite some 'myths' Apple devices are not more secure than Andropid devices: "We’ve seen a rash of vulnerabilities discovered in Apple’s iOS this month, which I hope starts putting to rest discussions of which operating system is more secure. The answer is neither one!"
He adds that: "Checkm8 serves as the latest reminder that neither Android nor iOS will ever be 100% secure. Neither Apple nor Google can or will immediately fix each and every security issue brought to their attention, leaving users and the apps they install exposed."
Bakken adds that security needs to be something put in place at the outset, a fundamental feature of 'quality by design': "Mobile app developers cannot depend solely on the security of the operating systems or manufacturers’ devices to secure their apps. Security features must be baked into the app development process from the start and developers must operate under the assumption that their apps will be installed on and launched on some number of insecure devices. "
He goes on to explain the types of security protocols required: "Securing apps through technology such as device binding and secure communication channels and then also gaining visibility into jailbreak and root status and the app’s runtime environment can fortify a mobile app even in risky environments such as jailbroken phones so that the app can be intelligent about what it will and will not do in those situations."
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