Google's Project Zero uncovers iPhone zero-day Wi-Fi exploit

Buggy code in iOS could have been exploited by hackers to remotely take control of devices

Coffee drinker using a black iPhone 11

iPhone users could have had their devices remotely rebooted and controlled via an iOS exploit, Google's Project Zero has revealed. 

The vulnerability was patched by Apple in May, but a variety of iPhones and iOS devices, including the iPhone 11, were susceptible to the vulnerability, according to Project Zero security researcher Ian Beer.

The exploit could have allowed hackers to remotely reboot and take complete control of a device from a distance, enabling them to read emails, messages, download photos and even access the microphone and camera for surveillance purposes. 

This was possible because iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches all use a protocol called Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL) to build a mesh network for services such as AirDrop and Sidecar. 

Beer came across the exploit while reading through an iOS developer beta in 2018 that had the code for AWDL. Due to the amount of code running on iOS, along with the sheer amount of programmes it runs, Beer suggests that bugs are always "prevalent" and can often be spotted.

It took six months to develop the bug into an exploit and Beer stressed that there is no evidence of it being used in the wild. 

"The takeaway from this project should not be: no one will spend six months of their life just to hack my phone, I'm fine," Beer wrote in a blog post.

"Instead, it should be: one person, working alone in their bedroom, was able to build a capability which would allow them to seriously compromise iPhone users they'd come into close contact with."

IT Pro has approached Apple for comment, but the iPhone maker patched the vulnerability in March.

The company credited Beer in its changelogs for several of the security updates that are linked to the vulnerability. The tech giant has also pointed out that most iOS users are already using newer versions that have been patched and also suggested that an attacker would need to be in a short range of the Wi-Fi for it to work. 

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Recommended

Geico data breach leads to stolen driver’s license numbers
data breaches

Geico data breach leads to stolen driver’s license numbers

21 Apr 2021
UK’s IoT security regulation will also include smartphones
Internet of Things (IoT)

UK’s IoT security regulation will also include smartphones

21 Apr 2021
eBay, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google were phishers’ top targets in 2020
phishing

eBay, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google were phishers’ top targets in 2020

20 Apr 2021
HackBoss malware is using Telegram to steal cryptocurrency from other hackers
cryptocurrencies

HackBoss malware is using Telegram to steal cryptocurrency from other hackers

16 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency
digital currency

UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency

19 Apr 2021