iOS 9.3.5 Fixes Massive Security Flaw: What IT Needs To Know - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Security & Risk Strategy
Commentary
8/27/2016
10:06 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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iOS 9.3.5 Fixes Massive Security Flaw: What IT Needs To Know 

An active threat using critical iOS zero-day vulnerabilities, which were dubbed "Trident," could allow hackers to install spyware on iPhones. IT managers should ensure employee devices are updated as soon as possible.

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Stop. Drop what you're doing and update your iPhone. A new security hole found by researchers is critically dangerous. The vulnerability could lead to remote code execution, allowing hackers to completely take over an iPhone remotely. Apple has already issued a patch via iOS 9.3.5 and recommends everyone update immediately.

IT managers need to get the word out to employees right away or even remotely push the update. Here's why.

Ahmed Mansoor, a United Arab Emirates-based human rights activist, recently received a suspicious text message. The message asked him to click on an embedded link. Rather than click, Mansoor smartly forwarded the message to security researchers at the University of Toronto.

(Image: alexsl/iStockphoto)

(Image: alexsl/iStockphoto)

Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto partnered with Lookout to explore what might have happened had Mansoor clicked the link. It's a good thing Mansoor listened to his gut. The researchers found that the link would have force-installed a program through three previously unknown vulnerabilities in iOS. The app could have then taken over the phone and allowed the attackers to do what they wished.

The spyware, called Pegasus, is the most advanced attack Citizen Lab says it has seen, "because it takes advantage of how integrated mobile devices are in our lives and the combination of features only available on mobile -- always connected (WiFi, 3G/4G), voice communications, camera, email, messaging, GPS, passwords, and contact lists," explained Citizen Lab in a blog post.

"It is modular to allow for customization and uses strong encryption to evade detection. Lookout's analysis determined that the malware exploits three zero-day vulnerabilities, [called] Trident, in Apple iOS."

[See Mobile Messaging Apps: 8 Tips for Keeping Your Workplace Secure.]

The researchers contacted Apple earlier this month and the company moved to plug the security holes very quickly.

iOS 9.3.5 covers an information leak at the kernel level, a kernel memory corruption that can lead to jailbreak, and a memory corruption in WebKit that leaves Safari open to attack. These would allow hackers to jailbreak an iPhone remotely and install surveillance software that could spy undetected.

Businesses, especially those that have mobile devices in the field, need to protect against this vulnerability as quickly as possible.

iOS 9.3.5 can be downloaded over the air directly from Apple.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
8/30/2016 | 6:43:05 PM
Smart move
Forwarding the message to security researchers was, indeed, a very smart move. Now think of how many employees click on suspicious links. We usually hear about just a few of those cases. -Susan
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