The Airplane mode in smartphones ensures safe device use on flights, as this feature prevents interference with critical flight systems by deactivating all the wireless functions of the smartphone.
Besides this, the Airplane Mode’s role extends beyond travel, serving as:
- Battery saver
- Disconnection tool
- Meditation aid
Researchers at Jamf Threat Labs have recently developed a post-exploit persistence method for iOS 16. If it is exploited successfully, it lets attackers set up a fake Airplane Mode with all the original Airplane Mode’s user interface features to hide their malicious app.
This allows the attacker to keep access to the device even when the user thinks it is offline.
New iOS 16 Hack Analysis
In a report sent to Cyber Security News, experts from Jamf Threat Labs said that they had first looked into how Airplane Mode works and found that two daemons control it. Here are the names of those two daemons:
- SpringBoard for UI shifts
- CommCenter for network control
Moreover, the CommCenter daemon also enables users to manage or control app-specific cellular data blocking.
When the user turns on Airplane Mode, the pdp_ip0 (cellular data) network interface hides the IPv4/IPv6 IP addresses.
Security analysts kept the cellular connectivity active for a selected application on their newly developed artificial Airplane Mode with slight UI changes.
While the analysis began with console log tracking, and the initial relevant log emerged upon enabling Airplane Mode:-
A C++ function that is symbol-less was found while locating the code in the disassembler using the following string:
To plant a deceptive Airplane Mode, researchers replaced the Airplane Mode’s call chain feature with an empty action that does nothing on activation.
In short, with the help of this newly crafted deceptive feature, an attacker could maintain an active cellular connection and undisrupted internet access.
Moreover, the attack requires further UI adjustments for conventional Airplane Mode illusions, like dimming cellular icons and disabling user interaction.
The analysts hooked up two Objective-C methods to achieve this and then disabled the cellular icon’s intended effect; it made the necessary adjustments by injecting a piece of code.
- -[SBStatusBarStateAggregator _noteAirplaneModeChanged]
- -[CCUIModularControlCenterOverlayViewController _beginPresentationAnimated:interactive:]
Users activating Airplane Mode without Wi-Fi anticipate Safari’s offline state. The usual prompt to “Turn Off Airplane Mode” was mimicked by using CommsCenter’s app-blocking as a faux Airplane Mode.
Swapping the alert is challenging, as cutting Safari’s internet without full device Airplane Mode activation is the crucial test.
After combining all the techniques, the fake or artificial Airlane Mode works completely fine, just like the real one.
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