Apple is said to provide security researchers with unique iPhone models that can help them find vulnerabilities in iOS. Forbes reports that Apple will make this announcement at the Black Hat security conference later this week.
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According to the report, the iPhones are distributed to security researchers who attend Apple's bug-bounty program. This program rewards researchers for the iOS bugs they report to Apple. Apple promised the availability of such iPhones in 2016 for the first time.
What sets these iPhones apart from consumer models?
A source with knowledge of the Apple announcement said that it would essentially be "developer devices" as iPhones, with which the user can do much more than with a traditionally locked iPhone. For example, it should be possible to examine parts of the Apple operating system that are not easily accessible on a commercial iPhone. In particular, the special devices could allow hackers to stop the processor and scan the memory for security vulnerabilities.
Despite this openness, these iPhones will not be quite as unlocked as the devices that Apple's internal developers and members are available to security team. For example, security researchers using these devices will probably not be able to decrypt the iPhone firmware.
This program could also reduce the number of leaked developer devices that were frequently sold on the black market. Elsewhere, the report claims that Apple is also ready to launch a Mac bounty program. This is similar to the iOS bug bounty and rewards security researchers for the vulnerabilities discovered in macOS.
Back in February, a security researcher ran a macOS exploit to access keychain passwords, but refused to share details with Apple. There is a bug-bounty program missing for MacOS. Ultimately, the researcher told Apple the details of the vulnerability, even though the company had not announced a publicly disclosed bug-tracking program.
We'll probably hear more about Apple's new pre-jailbreak program and MacOS bug fixes at this week's Black Hat conference. Apple's chief of security and technology, Ivan Krstić, will give a talk on Thursday.
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