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Apple’s latest security mess

by on23 June 2016

Opened up the kernel for inspection

With its release of iOS 10 Apple appears to have forgotten to encrypt the kernel, leaving security researchers baffled and virus writers rubbing their paws with glee.

There are two schools of thought on this. First, which is most likely, is that Apple has made a huge cock-up and released a version of the code having forgotten to encrypt the kernel. The other is that Apple has decided to reverse all its history of being a secret squirrel and embraced a more open approach to bug checking it software.

By not encrypting the kernel crucial pieces of the code are laid bare for all to see making it a doddle to find security weaknesses. This is a little odd as Apple has so far said it would strengthen security and privacy features. It is hard to see how showing an unencrypted version of the Kernel, which controls how programs can use a device’s hardware, enforces security.

The Tame Apple press insists that does not mean that the security of iOS 10 is compromised. But it makes finding flaws easier and reduces the complexity of reverse engineering considerably. It means that Apple is asking people to find flaws so that they can be fixed.

It also kills off any chance of certain groups to hoard knowledge of vulnerabilities, the Tame Apple Press claims.

But that would be something you could apply to normal companies. Apple’s reality distortion field insists that its products are perfect. This approach would mean that Apple would have to admit that there is a flaw and fix it straight away. Apple’s current policy when notified if there is a flaw is to ignore it until enough people complain and then issue a patch a few months later.

Also there would have to be an incentive for those who have looked at Apple’s operating system to hand over details of the bugs they have found. Apple does not offer “bug bounty” cash payments to people that disclose flaws they have found in its products.

This makes it more likely that if a person reverse engineer or find a hole in the iOS you would never take it to Apple, you would flog it to the government, or one of those dodgy security outfits which help them.

The safe money is on that this whole thing is a cock-up. Apple will encrypt the kernel and pretend it never happened. Unfortunately, it is a bit late for that now. The open version of the kernel has been distributed and is being picked apart as we speak.

Our guess is that Apple will have to bring in bug bounties, and institute a better system of flaw fixing. That would be the only way it could pretend that it intended to do this all along.

Last modified on 23 June 2016
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