A new threat to apple devices has surfaced. Researchers have discovered apple devices that are running anything lower than the newest software iOS 9.3.1 are vulnerable to becoming “bricks” (technological device becomes useless and dead) due to malicious Wi-Fi networks.
How does this happen?
Apple devices play into the situation in three ways:
- Software lower than 9.3.1 has a software bug that allows a user to manually set the date back to January 1, 1970 on the device (do not try this, it will make your device unusable).
- Apple products are designed to automatically connect to previous and known wireless networks however, this auto-connect has a flaw. For example, if you connected to a public Wi-Fi called “XYZ” at your favorite coffee shop, going forward, your device would automatically connect you to any open Wi-Fi called “XYZ” , even if it’s your neighbors unprotected Wi-Fi.
- Apple devices check various “network time protocol” (NTP) servers to sync their internal date and time clocks.
Researchers discovered that in a hypothetical situation they could “brick” apple devices by setting up a malicious network with a popular wireless network name that many victims could have potentially connected to before. Doing so would allow them to send false NTP times, specifically January 1, 1970, causing any apple devices that have not updated their software to fall into the trap. Within minutes those individuals’ devices would be unusable.
How to Prevent this Vulnerability and Protect Your Device
- Ensure your apple device is running at the most current software. You can check by going to Settings > General > About and looking at “Version”. You can also check for software updates by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
- Enable “ask to join networks” feature on your apple device to prevent your device from automatically joining new wireless networks – you will receive prompts that will ask if you want to join a network when available.
- Avoid connecting to unprotected and public Wi-Fi networks. Even if you enable “ask to join networks” your apple device will still auto-connect to previous Wi-Fi connections.
- If you have to use an unprotected or public Wi-Fi network, do not log in to sensitive accounts.