Updated White Hat hackers have demonstrated how to use low-level hacking exploits on wireless drivers to gain control of Apple MacBook PC, albeit one running a third-party wirless card.
A presentation by Jon Ellch and David Maynor at this week's Black Hat security conference in Vegas omitted details of the security flaw. The security researchers presented their demo by video to prevent malicious hackers from sniffing network traffic and reconstructing their attack.
Ellch and Maynor have found two similar flaws in the wireless device drivers for Windows machines. The duo decided to present their demo with a Mac machine as a target to prick what Maynor described as the "Mac user base aura of smugness on security". During the demo1, they showed how they gained access to an Apple MacBook in less than a minute, the Washington Post reports.
In all cases the attack only requires that a wireless device is switched on. A user need not be connected to a wireless network for the attack to succeed because drivers are commonly configured by default to continuously seek out available wireless networks. Maynor said that acute time pressures on driver developers contributed to the underlying vulnerabilities exploited by the attack.
"The main problem here is that device drivers are a funny mix of stuff put together by hardware and software developers, and these guys are often under the gun to produce the code that will power products that the manufacturer is often in a hurry to get to market," he said. ®
1During the demo, an Intel-based MacBook was used, with a third-party wireless card - not the wireless card that ships with the MacBook itself. This factor greatly diminishes the scope for mischief in practical terms.