iOS vulnerability can replace legit apps

There are billions of mobile apps out there, tempting treats for those wedded to their smart phones and tablets. However, a new Apple iOS vulnerability alert from a security vendor is a reminder that for best security software for any platform should only be downloaded from an authorized store or internal corporate site.

FireEye said Monday its researchers have discovered vulnerability in some versions of iOS 7 and 8 it calls Masque Attacks, which can replace a genuine app that was installed through Apple’s App Store with malware, as long as both apps use the same bundle identifier. Users are lured to install the new app, which appears to be an upgrade through its title (so if the user has a game “Flappy Bird,” the update is titled  “New Flappy Bird”).

The malware, which looks identical to the old app, can access device data which may include cached email or login tokens that can be used to log directly into the user’s account.

In one test, a phony Flappy Bird game update secretly installed a new Gmail app — and one can imaging the trouble that can create with hacker access to its contact list and emails.

Apple was notified in July about the discovery. Here’s a video FireEye released on the malware.

“This vulnerability exists because iOS doesn’t enforce matching certificates for apps with the same bundle identifier,” FireEye researchers said in a blog. “We verified this vulnerability on iOS 7.1.1, 7.1.2, 8.0, 8.1 and 8.1.1 beta, for both jailbroken and non-jailbroken devices. An attacker can leverage this vulnerability both through wireless networks and USB.”

FireEye said iOS users can protect themselves from Masque Attacks by following three steps:

  1. Don’t install apps from third-party sources other than Apple’s official App Store or the user’s own organization
  2. Don’t click “Install” on a pop-up from a third-party web page, no matter what the pop-up says about the app. The pop-up can show attractive app titles crafted by the attacker
  3. When opening an app, if iOS shows an alert with “Untrusted App Developer”, as shown in Figure 3, click on “Don’t Trust” and uninstall the app immediately.



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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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