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Apple botches iPhone patching, says researcher

July 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

"What my exploit does is sets up a bunch of stuff, then fills memory with shell code," said Miller. "There's really only one line that does the bad thing. When you run it on the iPhone, and [the exploit] tries to fill up memory, it runs out of memory and then stops [before the line].

"So Apple said 'We ran the exploit and it ran out of memory and it didn't do anything bad,'" Miller said. What Apple had apparently not done, he added, was to run the actual exploit line.

Miller knocked Apple's thoroughness. "Obviously, they didn't do a very good job of testing," he said. "They had the source code, and they thought that the iPhone wasn't vulnerable."

The incident made Miller question whether Apple can effectively manage security on its multiple platforms. "I don't think they do a very good job of that," he said when asked his take on Apple's ability to keep Mac OS X and its mobile devices in sync. "They hadn't patched the iPhone since February. For more than four months, it's had vulnerabilities that they patched in Mac OS X."

Five of the 13 iPhone vulnerabilities patched last week had been addressed by Apple in updates to Mac OS X or Safari between March and June.

"Not every single Safari bug will also be on the iPhone, but almost every WebKit bug will," said Miller. "If they're going to patch Mac OS X, I don't see why they can't patch the iPhone at the same time."

Like another security professional, Andrew Storms of nCircle Network Security Inc., who criticized Apple yesterday for not matching its talk of iPhone security with timely patches, Miller had a problem with the company's claims. "It's one thing not to patch something, companies do that all the time," he said. "But to advertise that it's been up to date since February, that's a little deceptive."

Read more about Malware and Vulnerabilities in Computerworld's Malware and Vulnerabilities Topic Center.



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