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Apple's AirDrop Comes with a Security Flaw

 

Due to its intriguing features, the much-hyped announcement of AirDrop at the Apple event drew a lot of attention. However, it has recently been discovered that AirDrop has a security loophole that allows users to see personal information such as email addresses and phone numbers. This may result in a data leak affecting over 1.5 billion Apple users, as well as other security concerns. 

According to a study citing researchers from Germany's Technische Universitat Darmstadt, everyone can reach Apple users' email addresses and phone numbers, even if they are strangers, by simply opening the sharing pane on the smartphone and initiating the sharing process. A secure Wi-Fi link and proximity between the two Apple devices are needed to complete this task. 

The researchers discovered a flaw in the Contacts Only setting. You use the iOS Sharing function and choose AirDrop as the method to share a file with anyone via AirDrop. If the other person's AirDrop is set to Contacts Only, Apple must check to see if you're on their contact list. The corporation does this by comparing the contact number and email address to entries in the other person's address book. 

Apple uses a hashing feature to obfuscate your phone number and email address during this process to keep it secure. However, university researchers have already found that this hashing would not effectively preserve the data's privacy. 

“As an attacker, it is possible to learn the phone numbers and email addresses of AirDrop users—even as a complete stranger," the researchers said in the report. "All they require is a Wi-Fi-capable device and physical proximity to a target that initiates the discovery process by opening the sharing pane on an iOS or macOS device.”

The researchers said they developed their own approach, called "PrivateDrop," to replace the insecure AirDrop design. Without needing to swap the insecure hash values, PrivateDrop can easily and safely verify whether you're in a fellow iPhone user's contact list using optimised cryptographic protocols. PrivateDrop is available for third-party review on GitHub.

For the time being, the researchers recommend that users disable AirDrop. To do so on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings, General, and then press the AirDrop entry. Select Receiving Off from the drop-down menu.

Comcast Data Breach Compromised with 1.5 Billion Data Records

 

American cable and Internet giant Comcast was struck by a data breach few days back. An unprotected developer database with 1.5 billion data records and other internal information was available via the Internet to third parties during this data breach. 

Comcast Corporation is the largest cable operator network and, after the AT&T it is the second largest internet service provider as well as the third largest telephonic company in the US after the AT&T and Verizon Communications. 

Recently the research team of WebsitePlanet in collaboration with the security researcher, Jeremiah Fowler, identified a non-password-protected database with a total size of 478 GB of 1.5 billion records. The database of Comcast featured dashboard permissions, logging, client IPs, @comcast e-mail addresses and hashed passwords in publicly accessible domain. By this breach, a description of the internal functionality, logging and general network structure is established with the IP addresses contained in the database. The server also revealed the Comcast Development Team's email addresses and hashed passwords. Further the database also provided the error reports, warning and the task or job scheduling information, cluster names, device names, and internal rules marked by the tag “Privileged=True.” Middleware also was detected in error logs and can often be used for ransomware or other bugs as a secondary way. 

However the measures to control the access to the data were taken around in an hour, as the malicious actors could have easily accessed and retrieved the confidential information until the data was secured. The researchers relying on Comcast's data immediately submitted a notice of disclosure and affirmed their observations to their Security Defect Reporting team. 

Fowler also said that, this was among the fastest response times I have ever had. Comcast acted fast and professionally to restrict the data set that was accessible to anyone with an internet connection. 

A representative for Comcast stated that, “The database in question contained only simulated data, with no real employee, customer or company data, outside of four publicly available Comcast email addresses. The database was used for software development purposes and was inadvertently exposed to the Internet. It was quickly closed when the researcher alerted us of the issue. We value the work of independent security researchers in helping us to make our products and services safer and thank the researcher for his responsible disclosure in this matter.” 

Naturally, it is unavoidable to deal with errors which reveal data as long as people are engaged in configurations. However, Comcast's size does cause these mistakes to be very disruptive and can affect many subscribers and business customers. That's the reason why these firms would follow those security lists, double-check additional teams, and do whatever they can to reduce chance of publicity. Though in this incident the action was taken in time.