iPhone 4S exploited in Mobile Pwn2Own hacking contest in Amsterdam

Bug in WebKit allows hackers to steal pictures and adress book data from iOS devices

Dutch security researchers hacked an iPhone 4S on Wednesday, showing how a malicious webpage can send all pictures, address book data and browsing history on the phone to a server of the attacker's choice.

As participants in the Mobile Pwn2Own competition they demonstrated the exploit to an audience at the EUSecWest security conference in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Their attack works on iOS 5.1.1 and the developer release of iOS 6, and probably also works on the iPhone 5, said Joost Pol and Daan Keuper of Dutch security company Certified Secure. It also works on iPads, they said.

The WebKit browser exploit was made in "only a few weeks," the researchers said. "And we didn't even work full time," said Keuper, who added that their exploit shows that limited time is needed to come up with a technique to exploit a security vulnerability in iOS.

When a user visits a website where the code is running; the security mechanisms in Safari are circumvented, Pol explained. "We could embed the code in advertisements on news sites for example," said Pol, adding that if they can embed the code anywhere on a website, it will work.

The researchers wouldn't reveal how the exploit works exactly. "We don't want anyone to run off with it," said Keuper.

Both researchers are curious what Apple thinks of the data leak, they said. "Apple will have to come up with an update and then people need to upgrade as fast as possible," said Pol, who still thinks the iPhone is the most secure phone out there.

Pol and Keuper earned US$30,000 for the exploit, among other prizes.

"Any browser exploit is significant," said Brian Gorenc, manager of the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) of HP DVLabs, which organized the competition. But because it is another hole in WebKit he does not think that Apple is to blame. He too, however, stressed that this is a hole that should be fixed. "The guys did a great job," he said, adding that the exploit will be sent to Apple.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Loek Essers

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place