Secret Apple iOS code turns up online in major leak

Image Apple

Apple is notorious for keeping its source code close to its chest, but someone just leaked a heap of very sensitive code online.

Apple's top-secret iBoot firmware source code in iPhones, iPads and other iOS devices has leaked into a public GitHub repo. The leak of such proprietary and confidential software could make it easier for hackers to find and exploit flaws in the operating system. The leak could pave way for jailbreakers and hackers to break more easily into iPhones, explore its vulnerabilities and compromise a device or possibly contribute to a jailbreak. Technical researchers will likely dig into and find vulnerabilities in the code before criminals do, especially as Apple has a "bug bounty" out that gives researchers $200,000 a pop for any bugs they find in bootloaders. It is, however, the first app that runs when you turn on an iOS device, silently transitioning from a black screen to the white Apple icon to iOS's colorful Home screen. It ensures that the mobile operating system's kernel is approved by Apple and legitimate for use on an iPhone or iPad.

A skilled anonymous hacker leaked the source code for Apple's ultra-secret iBoot software on Wednesday, raising fears that nearly any iPhone might be vulnerable to hackers.

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'It's a huge deal, ' Jonathan Levin, who writes books about iOS system programming, said in an interview with Motherboard.

The code has seemingly been taken from the "iBoot" part of the iOS, the part of the computer that begins to boot the operating system when it is turned on. The jailbreaks used to be easier to implement on iPhones and were much more common years ago, however the process has gotten more hard through more advanced iOS devices. Motherboard speculates that the leak could also enable programmers to emulate iOS on non-Apple platforms. "It is not open-source". By doing so, it added, Apple "indirectly confirmed that the code was real". The semi-good news it that Apple filed a take down request with GitHub and the code is down now. "This development proves that third-party security software from the likes of MobileIron, AirWatch, SOTI and others remains a needed part of any mobility strategy to thwart jailbreaking and intrusions to the enterprise".

Although this recent posting on GitHub is the most widely publicized leak of the documents, this actually isn't the first time the iPhone source code has made an appearance.

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