This tiny device is sending updated iPhones into a never-ending DoS loop


Enlarge / A totally up to date iPhone (left) after being drive crashed by a Flipper Zero (proper).

Jeroen van der Ham

One morning two weeks in the past, safety researcher Jeroen van der Ham was touring by prepare within the Netherlands when his iPhone all of the sudden displayed a collection of pop-up home windows that made it practically inconceivable to make use of his system.

“My telephone was getting these popups each jiffy after which my telephone would reboot,” he wrote to Ars in a web-based interview. “I attempted placing it in lock down mode, nevertheless it did not assist.”

To van der Ham’s shock and chagrin, the identical debilitating stream of pop-ups hit once more on the afternoon commute dwelling, not simply towards his iPhone however the iPhones of different passengers in the identical prepare automobile. He then seen that one of many identical passengers close by had additionally been current that morning. Van der Ham put two and two collectively and fingered the passenger because the perpetrator.

“He was blithely engaged on some form of app on his Macbook, had his iPhone out himself, linked by USB so he may nonetheless work whereas throughout him apple units had been rebooting and he was not even listening to what was occurring,” he stated. “Your telephone turns into virtually unusable. You may nonetheless do stuff in between for a few minutes, so it is actually annoying to expertise. Whilst a safety researcher who had heard about this assault, it is actually arduous to appreciate that that’s what’s occurring.”

“The jig is up”

The perpetrator, it turned out, was utilizing a Flipper Zero device to ship Bluetooth pairing requests to all iPhones inside radio vary. This slim, light-weight system has been obtainable since 2020, however in current months, it has change into way more seen. It acts as a Swiss Military knife for all types of wi-fi communications. It might work together with radio indicators, together with RFID, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or customary radio. Folks can use it to covertly change the channels of a TV at a bar, clone some resort key playing cards, learn the RFID chip implanted in pets, open and shut some storage doorways, and disrupt the traditional use of iPhones.

Most of these hacks have been doable for many years, however they require particular tools and a good quantity of experience. The capabilities typically required costly SDRs—brief for software-defined radios—that, not like conventional hardware-defined radios, use firmware and processors to digitally re-create radio sign transmissions and receptions. The $200 Flipper Zero is not an SDR in its personal proper, however as a software-controlled radio, it might do lots of the identical issues at an inexpensive value and with a kind issue that’s way more handy than the earlier generations of SDRs.

“The jig is up: software program radios have made beforehand inaccessible assaults obtainable to many extra individuals than earlier than, and work on them will proceed,” Dan Guido, CEO of safety agency Path of Bits, wrote in an interview. “People who find themselves casually desirous about expertise can now simply clone most resort or workplace keycards. They do not want any information of indicators or should mess with open supply code or Linux. [It] positively democratizes some previously complicated RF [radio frequency] hacking into the arms of mere mortals.”

The Flipper Zero producer payments the system as a “moveable multi-tool for pentesters and geeks” that’s appropriate for hacking radio protocols and constructing entry management methods, troubleshooting {hardware}, cloning digital key playing cards and RFID playing cards, and to be used as a common TV distant. Its open supply design permits customers to flash the system with customized firmware to tackle new capabilities.

A number of the specs for the system embody:

  • 1.4-inch monochrome LCD show
  • GPIO pins for connecting exterior {hardware} that vastly expands its capabilities
  • USB-C port for energy and firmware updating
  • micro SD card slot
  • Infrared transceiver
  • Sub-1 GHz antenna
  • TI CC1101 chip
  • 1-Wire pogo pin for studying contact keys
  • 2000 mAh battery
  • Low energy MCU
  • ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit 64 MHz (software processor)
  • ARM Cortex-M0+ 32-bit 32 MHz (radio processor)
Top view of the Flipper Zero.
Enlarge / High view of the Flipper Zero.
Bottom and rear view of the Flipper Zero.
Enlarge / Backside and rear view of the Flipper Zero.

“The concept of Flipper Zero is to mix all of the {hardware} instruments you’d want for exploration and improvement on the go,” the producer wrote. “Flipper was impressed by pwnagotchi undertaking, however not like different DIY boards, Flipper is designed with the comfort of on a regular basis utilization in thoughts—it has a sturdy case, useful buttons, and form, so there aren’t any soiled PCBs or scratchy pins.”

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