A critical vulnerability resides in AFNetworking could allow an attacker to cripple the HTTPS protection of 25,000 iOS apps available in Apple's App Store via man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
AFNetworking is a popular open-source code library that lets developers drop networking capabilities into their iOS and OS X products. But, it fails to check the domain name for which the SSL certificate has been issued.
Any Apple iOS application that uses AFNetworking version prior to the latest version 2.5.3 may be vulnerable to the flaw that could allow hackers to steal or tamper data, even if the app protected by the SSL (secure sockets layer) protocol.
Use any SSL Certificate to decrypt users' sensitive data:
An attacker could use any valid SSL certificate for any domain name in order to exploit the vulnerability, as long as the certificate issued by a trusted certificate authority (CA) that’s something you can buy for $50.
"This meant that a coffee shop attacker could still eavesdrop on private data or grab control of any SSL session between the app and the Internet," reports SourceDNA, a startup company that provides code analysis services.
Like, for example, I can pretend to be 'facebook.com' just by presenting a valid SSL certificate for 'thehackernews.com.'
The vulnerability, which is estimated to affect more than 25,000 iOS apps, was discovered and reported by Ivan Leichtling from Yelp.
AFNetworking had fixed the issue in its latest release 2.5.3 before the previous version 2.5.2, which fails to patch another SSL-related vulnerability.
Version 2.5.2 Failed to Patch the issue:
Previously it was believed that with the release of AFNetworking 2.5.2, the lack of SSL certificate validation issue had been eliminated that allowed hackers with self-signed certificates to intercept the encrypted traffic from vulnerable iOS apps and view the sensitive data sent to the server.
However, even after the vulnerability was patched, SourceDNA scanned for vulnerable code present in iOS apps and found a number of iOS apps till then vulnerable to the flaw.
Therefore, anyone with a man-in-the-middle position, such as a hacker on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, a rogue employee inside a virtual private network, or a state-sponsored hacker, presenting their own CA-issued certificate can monitor or modify the protected communications.
Apps from Big Developers found to be vulnerable. SERIOUSLY?
A quick check for iOS products with the domain name validation turned off; the security company found apps from important developers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, likely to be affected.
SourceDNA also said that the iOS apps from top developers such as Yahoo and Microsoft, meanwhile, remained vulnerable to the HTTPS-crippling bug.
Prevention against the flaw:
Just to prevent hackers from exploiting the vulnerability, SourceDNA has not disclosed the list of vulnerable iOS apps.
However, the company advised developers to integrate the latest AFNetworking build (2.5.3) into their products in order to enable domain name validation by default.
SourceDNA is also offering a free check tool that could help developers and end users check their apps for the vulnerability.
Meanwhile, iOS users are also advised to check immediately the status of apps they use, especially those apps that use bank account details or any other sensitive information.
And before the developers of vulnerable apps release an update, users should avoid using any vulnerable version of the apps for the time being.