With Black Hat approaching, a rush to patch iPhone

Apple is not saying whether it will patch a flaw in its iPhone before it is disclosed at Black Hat next week.

With security researchers set to reveal details of a critical security flaw in the iPhone at the Black Hat 2007 conference next week, Apple now has fewer than seven days to patch a critical vulnerability in the product.

The iPhone hack is one of several disclosures planned that could lead to fireworks as more than 3,000 hackers and security professionals converge at Caesars Palace Las Vegas for the annual confab.

The iPhone hack, which was first reported Monday by Independent Security Evaluators, showed how hackers could retrieve data from a victim's iPhone, by tricking them into visiting a malicious Web site.

If Apple were to patch the iPhone, it would be the company's first ever software update for the product, which began shipping in late June.

Apple representatives couldn't say whether or not a patch should be delivered by the time researchers from Independent Security Evaluators disclose their findings next Thursday, but according to Black Hat Director Jeff Moss, the iPhone maker has had "plenty of time" to patch its product. "It would be nice if they patched it," he said.

Patching the iPhone flaw would also show that Apple had made the right decision in reserving the right to patch the phone itself instead of handing over control of the iPhone software to the mobile carrier companies, as is common practice with mobile phones.

Carriers have been slow to patch devices, even when they have known bugs, said Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security Inc. "Right now other smart phones are full of vulnerabilities and they are not getting patched," he said. "This is actually a good test to see if Apple can do this better than the mobile carriers."

Graham's business partner David Maynor, who earned notoriety in the Apple community last year by discussing, but not disclosing, details on problems with wireless cards on the Mac, is rumored to be readying a new, "zero-day," iPhone attack. In an e-mail interview, Maynor said this may or may not happen. "We are trying to get something ready but there are no guarantees it will be stage-worthy in time," he said. "After last year... we make sure that it's painfully obvious or we don't do it."

Graham and Maynor are set to give a talk showing how intrusion prevention tools like 3Com Corp's TippingPoint Intrusion Prevention System can be reverse engineered by hackers looking for previously undisclosed vulnerabilities in various products.

The Independent Security Evaluators iPhone bug may be the most widely reported disclosure expected next week, but it may not be the most interesting.

Attendees are also looking forward to competing talks between researchers of virtual machine rootkit technology, who have been sparring over researcher Joanna Rutkowska's claim that this type of malware could be "100 percent undetectable."

Rutkowska and Alexander Tereshkin, [cq] both of Invisible Things Lab, will talk about hacking the Trusted Platform Module technology used to protect Windows Vista as well as the Blue Pill malware that they have developed.

Their adversaries will include Thomas Ptacek of Matasano Security who will be part of a team presentation entitled "Don't Tell Joanna, The Virtualized Rootkit Is Dead." Ptacek and others will demonstrate a variety of techniques that can be used to identify whether software like Blue Pill is running on a computer. "I think we're going to demolish the argument that there's 100 percent undetectable virtualized malware."

Another interesting presentation will come from researchers at McAfee and IBM who will disclose security problems in the C++ programming language.

Black Hat's Moss said that this talk could be one of the more technically interesting presentations at the show. "It's really nice when you see a talk that exposes light on an area that we take for granted," he said. Moss said it's rare to see talks that focus on such "fundamental building blocks" of computing.

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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