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Apple iPhone: Malware can become active on switched-off smartphones

Apple iPhone: Malware can become active on switched-off smartphones
Written by insideindyhomes

from Claus Ludewig
Researchers at the Technical University of Darmstadt have succeeded in activating malware on a switched-off Apple iPhone.

Thanks to their chipset and operating system software, smartphones can also be active for days in standby to receive notifications, for example. If you want, you can of course also switch off the smart phones completely with a long press on the on/off switch. Researchers at the Technical University of Darmstadt have now succeeded in activating malware on an Apple iPhone that was actually switched off.

How to enable malware on a shut down iPhone?

As the online magazine Ars Technica reports, the researchers at the Secure Mobile Networking Lab have invested a lot of work in order to be able to activate the malware on the shut down iPhone. First, physical access and jailbreaking of the device is required. For example, the NSO Group’s Pegasus state trojan could be used for this purpose. Once jailbroken, the malware can be installed even when the iPhone is turned off.

To do this, the researchers used Apple’s Find My function. So that lost Apple devices can be located, the Bluetooth chip continues to run in an energy-saving mode, although the firmware of the Bluetooth module is currently not secured with a signature. Using modified firmware, hackers could, for example, track the location of iPhones even when they are switched off. During the test, the researchers installed a modified iOS 15.2 on an iPhone SE 2020 and an iPhone 12 because there was no jailbreak for iOS 15.2 in January 2022. According to the research paper, the low-power mode appears to be implemented in the hardware, so it probably cannot be removed simply with a system update. However, it is possible for iPhone users to switch off the Find My function. To do this, owners must turn off “Find my iPhone” in the settings under iCloud. By the way, the Find My function can also make Apple Airpods unavailable for resale.

Also worth reading: Apple Airpods often cannot be resold

Collection related to malware on powered off iPhones:

  • Researchers at the Technical University of Darmstadt have succeeded in activating malware on switched-off iPhones.
  • To do this, the researchers used Apple’s Find My function, since the Bluetooth chip continues to run in energy-saving mode.
  • However, the firmware of the Bluetooth chip is not protected with a signature, so modified firmware can also be used.
  • The scientists from the Secure Mobile Networking Lab used an iPhone SE 2020 and an iPhone 12 with a modified iOS 15.2 for the test.

Sources: University of Darmstadt, Ars Technica

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