NoReboot Attack Fakes iPhone Shutdown to Spy on You

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For a long time, Apple has been one of the leading manufacturers of smartphones.  

However, even the biggest firms can run into issues when they discover vulnerabilities or an attack that threatens their integrity and legitimacy, as has happened to Apple. 

Researchers have discovered a new method for faking a power off or restart of the iPhone, preventing the phone from removing the hazardous virus in the shut-down process.  

This fake reboot can allow an attacker to spy on you with access to your camera and microphone. 

When an iPhone was suspected of being infected with hazardous malware, owners would simply reboot the phone, causing the malwares to be removed from the memory. The phone never actually goes off or reboots in this case. Instead, it allows the malware to remain in the system even when the user restarts the phone. 

How Does The Attack Work? 

ZecOps security experts developed a Trojan PoC tool that injects specific code into the iOS system, allowing for a false reboot.  

It stops the signal it delivered to the “Spring Board” and sends it a code that would force it to exit the system, causing the app to not respond to any touch or actions made by the user. 

The “BackBoardd” daemon is now programmed to display the spinning wheel sign on the screen, informing the user that the phone is about to shut down.  

This daemon also logs the power button, which might be misused by the Trojan. When the user tries to switch on the phone, it causes them to release the button sooner than they should because doing so would allow the phone to restart. 

The user is now presented with the standard UI, leading him to believe that their phone has rebooted, even though the phone was never truly shut off. 

What Might This Mean for Smartphone security? 

Because the strategy focuses on manipulating users rather than flaws or defects in the iOS platform, it can’t be remedied with a patch.  

Malware writers and hackers could now use this strategy to set up attacks on iOS devices, where the standard advice of restarting an iPhone to eradicate infestations no longer works. According to ZecOps, the NoReboot approach affects all versions of iOS and that only hardware indicators can aid in detecting this type of attack method. 

The ability of hackers to execute sophisticated attacks could have disastrous personal and business consequences. All network administrators and security professionals should get familiar with expert cybersecurity tactics and techniques, especially if workers operate remotely. 

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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