Apple: $1m price for iOS exploit says we’re doing a good job

Reports that iOS exploits have been sold for $1m boost Apple’s confidence that it’s approach to security is on the money.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and increasingly non-tech enterprise firms offer cash to researchers who report security bugs affecting their products. Microsoft offers up to $100,000 for certain categories of bugs reports. Google also offers $100,000 for certain ChromeOS bugs. Bug bounty providers calculate that offering cash will help them fix the most important flaws faster than if left to their own resources.

But where Google can boast how much it pays external researchers for reporting bugs to keep its products secure, Apple has a different way of judging its security. Flaws in Apple software reportedly fetch as high as $1m apiece on the black market, but it never pays a cent for a “zero-day” or previously unknown and un-patched software flaws, instead crediting finders by naming them in its security advisories.

One of the flaws that wasn’t captured by Apple’s vulnerability reporting program was sold to the FBI for as much as $1.3 million, which helped the agency unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Zerodium, a firm that trades these exploits with customers, including government organisations, last year put up a $1m reward for anyone who could find a remote exploit for the latest version of iOS.

The jury is still out on bug bounties. Paying researchers for reporting security bugs in software has become more popular, but some argue that vendors should secure a product before releasing it rather than paying for security after a product is released. Besides this, the price for certain bugs are still well above what Google and Microsoft are willing to pay through bounty programs.

Ivan Krstić, head of Apple’s security engineering and architecture, offered some insight to Apple’s thinking on the subject at this year's WWDC.

Krstić said security cannot be measured directly or objectively, leaving him with a few indirect signals, one of which was the price for exploits for Apple vulnerabilities.

He told developers to take “with a grain of salt” the meaning of bugs being sold for $1m, but noted that it was a “fascinating number to think about”.

The most important measure of Apple’s success in mobile security however was that it hadn’t yet seen a massive malware outbreak, which Krstić argued was because of Apple’s built-in iOS security protections and that Apple vetted its App Store. Another was Apple’s fingerprint sign-in system Touch ID, which helped raise passcode protected iOS devices from 49 percent before Touch ID to 90 percent toay.

Also, these days the jailbreaker scene needed to gather between five to 10 interrelated bugs in order to have a working product to offer iPhone owners who don’t want to be locked down to Apple’s ecosystem.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Bug bountyGoogleMicrosoftiosApple softwarechromeosfbiFacebookAppleBug Bounty Program

More about AppleFacebookFBIGoogleMicrosoft

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Liam Tung

Latest Videos

  • 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

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts