JSPatch hot patching technique puts iOS users at risk

Pierluigi Paganini February 01, 2016

Security experts at FireEye are warning attackers can exploit the JSPatch hot patching technique to serve malicious code and put iOS users at risk

The release of hot patches for apps already deployed in the official App Store is a time-consuming procedure that results frustrating for developers.

Apple is aware of this drawback, for this reason designed specific solutions to address the issue and make it easier for iOS app developers to release a hotfix patch without passing the strict controls implemented under the Apple’s review process.

Unfortunately, this ‘alternative’ process expose Apple users to the risk of cyber attacks.

The technology under scrutiny is JSPatch, experts at FireEye warn about possible abuse that could allow attackers to push malicious updates for mobile apps in the Official store.

According to the experts at FireEye, attackers could exploit the JSPatch technology to serve malicious updates that could allow the apps to carry out a number of malicious activities.

“The JSPatch technology potentially allows an individual to effectively circumvent the protection imposed by the App Store review process and perform arbitrary and powerful actions on the device without consent from the users. The dynamic nature of the code makes it extremely difficult to catch a malicious actor in action.” states a blog post published by FireEye.

JSPatch Apple apps

In one case presented as a proof-of-concept by the experts the attackers can exploit the iOS Pasteboard, commonly used to copy and paste content between different apps, exfiltrate personal data from victims mobile device.

There are two possible attack scenarios that exploit the JSPatch Framework, in one case malicious developers could initially deploy a harmless app on the store and later update it with malicious code through the JSPatch Framework, in a second scenario the attackers can run a Man-in-the-Middle attacks against a developer loads the framework via an unencrypted channel.

If you want further details on the JSPatch Framework and possible attack methods give a look to the post published by Fire Eye.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – JSPatch Framework, Apple)

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