Duo Security uncovers vulnerabilities in Apple's managed device program

iPhone X with notch

Duo Security has uncovered a major vulnerability in Apple's Device Enrollment Programme that could affect devices automatically provisioned for business use.

The problem lies in the authentication of devices, potentially allowing hackers to enrol any device in an organisation's MDM (mobile device management) server, gaining access to privileged information. The access is granted because not all organisations have user authentication enabled. Apple's documentation doesn't mention that it's needed and so some firms may assume the MDM does this.

The problem with only using a serial number to add devices to a DEP is that these are often available freely online and they are not considered 'secret' information that needs to be encrypted, so sometimes are inadvertently revealed.

Another problem identified by the researchers revealed that an attacker could find serial numbers of devices using open source intelligence, brute force attacks or social engineering. Because the DEP provides data such as phone numbers and email addresses, a criminal could attack the company's help desk or IT team.

Because Apple doesn't use anything but the devices serial number to identify the user as a necessity, it's quite easy for criminals to break in. If Apple made it a requirement for businesses to also insist upon user authentication as a security method, businesses would be better protected against these attacks.

"Or in configurations where an associated MDM server does not enforce additional authentication, a malicious actor can potentially enrol an arbitrary device into an organization's MDM server," James Barclay senior R&D engineer at Duo Security said.

"The ability to enroll a chosen device to an organization's MDM server can have a significant consequence, subsequently allowing access to the private resources of an organization, or even full VPN access to internal systems."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.