In a realm where technology constantly evolves, our beloved iPhones have been at the forefront of innovation, offering a seamless experience that intertwines with our daily lives. However, a recent revelation by security researchers at Kaspersky sheds light on a sophisticated and unprecedented threat – an iPhone attack chain exploit named “Operation Triangulation.” Brace yourselves, for this is no ordinary exploit; it’s a saga of four zero-day vulnerabilities that orchestrated a flawless 0-click iMessage exploit, lurking in the shadows until the release of iOS 16.2 in December 2022.
Picture this: you innocently receive an iMessage attachment, a seemingly harmless file that the application processes silently, leaving you oblivious to the impending danger. Little do you know, this attachment is the gateway to a meticulously crafted sequence of events, exploiting a remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2023-41990) in the Apple-only ADJUST TrueType font instruction, a relic from the early nineties.
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As if that weren’t enough, the exploit cleverly uses hardware memory-mapped I/O (MMIO) registers to bypass the Page Protection Layer (PPL), only to be met with the resilience of iOS 16.2 in the form of CVE-2023-38606.
Once the vulnerabilities are conquered, the exploit gains control, capable of running spyware rampant on the device. However, the attackers opt for a strategic move: launching the IMAgent process to clear exploitation artifacts and running an invisible Safari process redirected to a web page housing the next stage.
As the curtain falls on this clandestine performance, Kaspersky’s security researchers, Boris Larin, Leonid Bezvershenko, and Georgy Kucherin, share their almost complete reverse-engineering of every facet of this attack chain. However, a lingering mystery surrounds CVE-2023-38606, leaving the trio eager for the iOS security community’s insights into how attackers unearthed this hidden hardware feature.
In their parting words, Larin, Bezvershenko, and Kucherin emphasize the vulnerability of systems reliant on ‘security through obscurity,’ stressing that true security can never be achieved through secrecy alone.
In conclusion, Operation Triangulation serves as a stark reminder of the evolving threat landscape surrounding our cherished iPhones. As we bid farewell to 2023, let this revelation echo in our minds, prompting a collective effort to fortify the digital ramparts that safeguard our technological sanctuaries.