Researchers claim malware can be loaded onto iPhones that have been powered down

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,127   +154
Staff member
The big picture: Researchers from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany have demonstrated the possibility to load malware onto an iPhone even when it is powered off. There's no evidence that it has been exploited in the wild and it may not even be viable on its own, but the matter could give Apple something to think about.

The exploit is related to a feature in iOS 15 that allows Find My to work for several hours after a device has been turned off. Specifically, chips used for Bluetooth, near field communication (NFC) and ultra-wideband (UWB) continue to run in a low-power mode (LPM) even after a user-initiated shutdown.

This low-power mode is different from the one indicated by the yellow battery icon.

In assessing LPM features, researchers found that the Bluetooth LPM firmware is neither signed nor encrypted. Under the right circumstances, the team claims this firmware could be modified to run malware. These favorable conditions include a jailbroken iPhone, preferably with system-level access. If you already have that level of access, a Bluetooth chip exploit like the one proposed here would probably be redundant.

The researchers claim they informed Apple of the issues but the company did not comment on the matter. Similarly, Apple declined to comment when contacted by Motherboard.

Security researcher Ryan Duff told Motherboard "it's not really a standalone attack without additional vulnerabilities and exploits."

"It may be possible to exploit the Bluetooth chip directly and modify the firmware but the researchers did not do that and there isn't a known exploit that would currently allow that," Duff added.

In their report published on arXiv, the team said they believe LPM is "a relevant attack surface that has to be considered by high-value targets such as journalists, or that can be weaponized to build wireless malware operating on shutdown iPhones."

Image credit: Caleb Oquendo, MacRumors

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PEnnn

Posts: 770   +874
" These favorable conditions include a jailbroken iPhone, preferably with system-level access"

Jailbroken, eh??

If IPhone users wanted such a jail-broken, vulnerable piece of junk they would have bought an Android!!
 

bviktor

Posts: 841   +1,260
Man, you're not only drinking, you're guzzling that Kool-Aid!
He's spitting truth though. Android proponents always talk about how "free" and customizable their system is.

People always assume locked down systems are bad for whatever reason. Same thing is going on with that stupid alternate store debacle. And with NFC.

No, I don't want jailbreak, I don't want NFC to be accessible, I don't want the possibility for alternate stores or payments. I want my phone secure and locked down. It imposes absolutely no restrictions on me, only on malware creators. I want to keep it that way.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 770   +874
Man, you're not only drinking, you're guzzling that Kool-Aid!
Sorry for the butt- hurt.

Now go back to your overpriced junk and play some easy games-for-kids in yo mama's basement
 
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BuckarooBonzai

Posts: 97   +65
We all hear about giving up your rights and freedom for security. In some cases yes or no depending on the situation. The choice is simple choose Android or IOS. You want freedom use Android, you want lock down use IOS and be done with it. Neither should impose on each other as each sides have their reasons good or bad. It sounds just like people arguing who's religion is the best.
 

Hexic

Posts: 1,212   +1,886
TechSpot Elite
He's spitting truth though. Android proponents always talk about how "free" and customizable their system is.

People always assume locked down systems are bad for whatever reason. Same thing is going on with that stupid alternate store debacle. And with NFC.

No, I don't want jailbreak, I don't want NFC to be accessible, I don't want the possibility for alternate stores or payments. I want my phone secure and locked down. It imposes absolutely no restrictions on me, only on malware creators. I want to keep it that way.
The only issue with that logic is - locked down systems aren't bad, and the assumption that all Android users think so is incorrect. If the average Apple user doesn't want latest gen features (which they don't have a choice of having anyways) - that's fine. The elementary assumption that because Androids aren't locked down and therefore 'junk' and a liability is what I was shooting down. As someone who still uses both Android and iOS daily, that's a comment from an individual who doesn't understand nor use both ecosystems.

Your iPhone and mine are both 'secure' in the common defining sense, but so is my Pixel. The typical use case for an android phone to the common user is the same as an iPhone user. The security holds the same. The biggest difference is you have those who believe Apple's marketing department stating that my Pixel or someone's Samsung are constantly at such a risk level in simply owning and using one that it just isn't worth it.

Objectivity is hard.
 

Nobina

Posts: 3,772   +4,194
I want my phone secure and locked down. It imposes absolutely no restrictions on me
How can something that's locked down have no restrictions? What in the actual **** did I just read?

Android, just like iOS is a mobile OS which is meant to be used by absolute cretins. If you struggle with it you probably struggle with boiling water or cooking an egg and that's on you.

People that get viruses also think they inherited a million dollars from a Nigerian prince. You're only as secure online as your weakest link which in this case is your brain.
 

Rocky4040

Posts: 49   +76
Just so everyone is clear if you put it on the internet nothing is safe if you put it on a network that has had hardware on the internet your just as unsafe because that network was exposed to the internet gremlins as well. Nothing is safe once exposed to anything that's been online. Hell if you connect to Google play store or The Apple store you are going to find many sources of ways to make your device unsafe unfit to use after a while. it's just how things work.

We do not need these guys or anyone else pointing out ways on how to make our crap self destruct even faster because some goon in their parents basements thinks it a blast to mess up peoples crap. Thank if you read this to this point never intended for it to sound like a rant just annoys the heck out of me when you see these guys pointing out more ways for our hardware to be even more exploited than it already is by goons and the companies themselves that make the hardware.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,262   +1,748
Man, you're not only drinking, you're guzzling that Kool-Aid!
He's second only to QP for radioactive bad takes on every conceivable subject. Act accordingly.

Another week, another example of why the smartphone paradigm is categorically a bad one. I hate everything about these gadgets.
 

netman

Posts: 771   +335
The article did not mention LPM also energizes the GPS chip... That's why NSA can find your location even with your cell phone off...!
 

Duke9192

Posts: 57   +77
" These favorable conditions include a jailbroken iPhone, preferably with system-level access"

Jailbroken, eh??

If IPhone users wanted such a jail-broken, vulnerable piece of junk they would have bought an Android!!
I've always had Android and it is far more open to owner customization as well as choice in apps, than ios. It has, however become more locked down like ios in recent years which is a shame. I had both the Galaxy s2 and s4 followed by and HTC 10 I think it was. All of which were rooted back in those years. No problems, no malware, no bloatware and no ad's. It's been made too difficult to root these days. Apple always leads the way to decline, first for non removable batteries, non expandable memory, making it more difficult to root/jailbreak... Etc...