Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

January 22, 2022

Malware can now Intercept and fake an iPhone reboot

Filed under: Computer Security,Computer Software,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 1:50 AM

Rebooting the system has always been a good way to clean start your system (phone or computer). Some of the phone malware specifically don’t have the ability to persist so can be removed just by rebooting the phone (Especially on the iPhone). Now, researchers from the ZecOps Research Team have figured out how to fake a reboot on an iPhone. Which allows malware/surveillance software to spoof the shutdown / reboot of a phone. As you can imagine, this has massive security impact. The first problem is that we can’t be sure that the phone has been rebooted so malware can’t be removed. Secondly, some of the folks shutdown their phones while discussing sensitive information. Using this technique the attackers can pretend that the phone is switched off, while it is still on and eavesdrop using the phone’s camera and mic.

We’ll dissect the iOS system and show how it’s possible to alter a shutdown event, tricking a user that got infected into thinking that the phone has been powered off, but in fact, it’s still running. The “NoReboot” approach simulates a real shutdown. The user cannot feel a difference between a real shutdown and a “fake shutdown.” There is no user-interface or any button feedback until the user turns the phone back “on.”

The problem is exacerbated due to there not being any physical method of powering the device off. Earlier phone models had removable batteries which allowed a user to physically remove the battery when they wanted to secure the device. Now the battery is built in and there is no way to remove it without dismantling the device and voiding your warranty in the process. I have discussed this with various folks over the years that it is impossible to ensure a device is powered off when we shut it down because we can’t remove the battery.

A silver lining around this is that it looks like hard reboots are harder to spoof so if you want to be sure that your phone is actually off, you can shut it down using a hard-reboot. Another solution is to carry a Faraday bag with you and put your phone inside when you need to be off-grid.

Source: Schneier’s Blog: Faking an iPhone Reboot

– Suramya

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