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'Major flaw' in Apple software leaves mobile devices vulnerable to hackers

Apple computers especially vulnerable to hackers

(Reuters) - A major flaw in Apple Inc software for mobile devices could allow hackers to intercept email and other communications that are meant to be encrypted, the company said on Friday, and experts said Mac computers were even more exposed.

If attackers have access to a mobile user's network, such as by sharing the same unsecured wireless service offered by a restaurant, they could see or alter exchanges between the user and protected sites such as Gmail and Facebook. Governments with access to telecom carrier data could do the same.

"It's as bad as you could imagine, that's all I can say," said Johns Hopkins University cryptography professor Matthew Green.

Apple did not say when or how it learned about the flaw in the way iOS handles sessions in what are known as secure sockets layer or transport layer security, nor did it say whether the flaw was being exploited.

But a statement on its support website was blunt: The software "failed to validate the authenticity of the connection."

Apple released software patches and an update for the current version of iOS for iPhone 4 and later, 5th-generation iPod touches, and iPad 2 and later.

Without the fix, a hacker could impersonate a protected site and sit in the middle as email or financial data goes between the user and the real site, Green said.

After analyzing the patch, several security researchers said the same flaw existed in current versions of Mac OSX, running Apple laptop and desktop computers. No patch is available yet for that operating system, though one is expected soon.

Because spies and hackers will also be studying the patch, they could develop programs to take advantage of the flaw within days or even hours.

The issue is a "fundamental bug in Apple's SSL implementation," said Dmitri Alperovich, chief technology officer at security firm CrowdStrike Inc. Adam Langley, a senior engineer at Google, agreed with CrowdStrike that OS X was at risk.

Apple did not reply to requests for comment. The flaw appears to be in the way that well-understood protocols were implemented, an embarrassing lapse for a company of Apple's stature and technical prowess.

The company was recently stung by leaked intelligence documents claiming that authorities had 100 percent success rate in breaking into iPhones.

Friday's news suggests that enterprising hackers could have had great success as well if they knew of the flaw.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Ken Wills and Robert Birsel)

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mrscdel February 22 2014 at 3:33 PM

if its on ANY computer its hackable. If its really important...go back to paper....and flash paper if necessary.

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1 reply
ccarroll mrscdel February 22 2014 at 7:13 PM

Russia just bought typewriters to prevent security leaks. You can look it up.

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Isabel February 22 2014 at 9:17 PM


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1 reply
BOB Isabel February 23 2014 at 12:09 AM

WHAT did you just say???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
djpetitte February 23 2014 at 1:13 AM

CrApple: Overpriced hipster garbage.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
gdloops18 February 22 2014 at 2:07 PM

Well, thanks to your revelation, the 'hackers' now know of the flaw.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
uplnu February 23 2014 at 1:15 AM

thought that was apples selling nitch 'we can't be hacked'??@!!! wtf

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jcreitz23 February 22 2014 at 12:49 PM

Just another reason to live off the grid.....carpe diem!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
tilakmadawela February 22 2014 at 12:46 PM

pretty soon someone called Mohammed or YURI would be controlling you. STOP USING WIRELESS!

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Shirley February 22 2014 at 12:46 PM

This has been coming for all that felt Apple just could not be hacked or that Apple is perfect.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
my89300zx February 22 2014 at 10:20 AM

Thanks for the info AOL!!! LOL I was looking for the code to compete this action.

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towson1 February 22 2014 at 12:05 PM

IRS & US Dept of Commerce have closed all outside networking a year ago. The existing www transporting/control/connectivity was developed under NSA for DOD. They put so many doors, accesses, traps in that the entire network is unsecurable using the packets, protocols and architecture they designed in from day one.

The only way to secure anything is to replace their architecture, packets, and protocols with a direct P2P APP with no out side access, absolute use authentication, no middleman servers, contact list and all communications multi-layer secured encrypted. Out with the old in with VOVIE.

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