HTTPS snooping flaw in third-party library affected 1,000 iOS apps with millions of users

The flaw in the AFNetworking library broke HTTPS certificate validation, enabling man-in-the-middle attacks

Apps used by millions of iPhone and iPad owners became vulnerable to snooping when a flaw was introduced into third-party code they used to establish HTTPS connections.

The flaw was located in an open-source library called AFNetworking that's used by hundreds of thousands of iOS and Mac OS X applications for communicating with Web services. The bug disabled the validation of digital certificates presented by servers when establishing secure HTTPS (HTTP over SSL/TLS) connections.

This means that attackers in a position to intercept encrypted traffic between affected applications and HTTPS servers could decrypt and modify the data by presenting the app with a fake certificate. This is known as a man-in-the-middle attack and can be launched over insecure wireless networks, by hacking into routers and through other methods.

The impact of the flaw for the iOS ecosystem was hard to gauge because the vulnerability only affected applications that used a particular version of AFNetworking -- 2.5.1 -- released on Feb. 9 and, of those, only the ones that relied on the library's SSL/TLS functionality.

The vulnerability was fixed in AFNetworking 2.5.2, released on March 26, so the flaw was active for a little over six weeks. How many iOS apps were updated to the vulnerable version in that time frame and how many of them used it for establishing HTTPS communications? A company called SourceDNA which tracks the use of third-party components in iOS and Android apps claims to have an answer.

There are over 100,000 iOS apps, out of the 1.4 million on the App Store, that use the AFNetworking library, the company said Monday in a blog post. Of those, around 20,000 had been updated or released during the time when the vulnerability existed.

SourceDNA created a signature for the vulnerable AFNetworking code and scanned those 20,000 apps to see how many of them had it. The scan showed that 55 percent used the older and safe 2.5.0 version of the library, another 40 percent were not using the library's vulnerable SSL/TLS API (application programming interface) at all, and 5 percent or around 1,000 apps were vulnerable.

One thousand vulnerable apps out of 100,000 might not sound too bad, but it actually is when taking into consideration that they included popular apps from high-profile vendors like Yahoo, Microsoft, Uber Technologies, Citrix and others.

"It amazes us that an open-source library that introduced a security flaw for only six weeks exposed millions of users to attack," SourceDNA said.

Some vendors, including Yahoo, have already patched their apps, but others remain vulnerable, so SourceDNA created a website that allows users to check if their installed apps are vulnerable.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags patchesCitrixonline safetyMicrosoftsecuritymobile securityencryptionExploits / vulnerabilitiesSourceDNAUber TechnologiesYahoo

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?