Apple warned of phishing attack threat to iPhone, iPad and Mac OS developers

The Apple website vulnerability could allow an attacker to specify a link to another site through a redirect

Apple's website for Mac OS X, iPhone and iPad developers has a vulnerability that could lead to phishing attacks, according to a hacker group.

The Apple website vulnerability could allow an attacker to specify a link to another site through a "redirect," which could simplify phishing attacks, claims the YGN Ethical Hacker Group. The outfit, dedicated to finding website security flaws, is said to operate from the country of Myanmar.

Unless Apple fixes the alleged vulnerability, the group says it plans to release information publicly in the next few days via the Full Disclosure security mailing list.

SECURITY: Hacker group defends exposing McAfee website vulnerabilities

This is the practice that the group followed in March when it was frustrated by what it considered a slow response by security firm McAfee about vulnerability issues it found in its website. After public disclosure by the group, McAfee acknowledged the problems.

YGN Ethical Hacker Group says it doesn't want the discoveries it makes about vulnerabilities to be used for illegal hacking purposes, but to spur better security in commercial websites. The group says it informed Apple on April 25 about the" issues" it discovered at the developer site. The group says Apple on April 27 acknowledged the receipt of the information, saying, "We take the report of a potential security issue very seriously." But as of yet, YGN Ethical Hacker Group does not believe the main security hole it identified has been fixed.

The specific hole related to the "vulnerable code portion in developer.apple.com,"according to the group, is called "URL Redirection to Untrusted Site ('Open Redirect')." This is described in Mitre's data definitions of "Common Weakness Enumeration" as follows: "By modifying the URL value to a malicious site, an attacker may successfully launch a phishing scam and steal user credentials. Because the server name in the modified link is identical to the original site, phishing attempts have a more trustworthy appearance."

The Mitre definition of the URL Redirect says it can allow an attack because "the user may then unwittingly enter credentials into the attacker's web page" which would compromise the user's sensitive information.

Remediation to fix a vulnerability of this type typically involves improving input validation or otherwise changing the website.

YGN Ethical Hacking Group says it will spell out three specific "issues" soon if the Apple developer website isn't fixed to the group's satisfaction. These "issues" involve arbitrary URL redirect; cross-site scripting; and HTTP response splitting, with the "root cause" being the Arbitrary URL Redirect.

In April, the YGN Ethical Hacker Group found a similar Arbitrary URL Redirect issue in Oracle's Java.com website, but Oracle corrected it in about a week and even thanked the group for its information.

However, even given that the intent of the secretive group appears to be benign, the practice of unauthorized vulnerability scans and assessments of websites is highly controversial.

That's because under U.S. law at least, an unauthorized scan to find security holes is regarded as an attack and possibly a break-in. However, YGN Ethical Hacker Group in the past has countered that website operators, especially in the security and high-tech field, have a larger responsibility to not let their websites be compromised and exploited, which could undermine security on a broad basis.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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Ellen Messmer

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