Warith AL Maawali

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Warith AL Maawali
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Apple iOS Mail Client leaking highly sensitive information


Disclosure of iOS Mail Client Vulnerability and Apple’s Response

Imagine a scenario where all it takes to launch an attack against you is someone asking you to send or reply to an email. Unfortunately, this is a reality due to a vulnerability in the Apple iOS mail client, which leaks highly sensitive information. The issue came to light when I received an email and decided to examine the email headers for any potential information leaks.
I opened my email client and clicked on “Show Original,” as illustrated below:

View mail headers
Ip address

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the screen shots

 What I found was unexpected: both the sender’s Internet IP address (which is normal based on the SMTP protocol) and local IP address (which was leaked) were included in the email headers, as shown below:

  • Number 1: The local IP address which is behind the router.
  • Number 2: The external Internet IP address, which is normal based on the SMTP protocol.

Now, you might think that these are the only pieces of information that are leaked. However, the answer is NO. In fact, there is more sensitive information exposed, as shown below:
The iOS version. To confirm this, simply Google the string “16G140” and you will see the following result:

From the above results you can identify the iPhone model which is iPhone 6 based on the current scenario.

Number 2: A unique random string that could be an identifier related to the email itself or to the iPhone device. However, this unique string is not leaked on iOS 13.3.

 To delve deeper, Google “iPhone iOS 12.4.4 vulnerabilities” and you will find the following results:

By reviewing Apple’s security release notes, we can find the following information:

Now, all you have to do is learn how the FaceTime exploit works and convince the victim to have a FaceTime call with you.

Are we done? Not yet. The iOS mail client can also leak your VPN’s external and internal IP addresses! I performed another test to confirm this, and the results are shown below:

VPN ip address

You might think that you are not vulnerable to this information leakage because you have the latest iOS version 13.3. However, I have tested this on the latest iOS version, and the information leakage still exists. This demonstrates that using privacy-aware email services such as ProtonMail or Tutanota is ineffective if the iOS mail client itself leaks your privacy-related information.

I have contacted Apple regarding this issue and hope they will release a patch soon. Until then, make sure you avoid using the iOS mail client unless you are willing to expose your external and internal IP addresses, along with your iOS version and device model.

Note: Before posting or contacting Apple, I verified on my latest iOS version that the iPhone still does not provide an option to control what is sent over the email headers in the mail or privacy settings (screenshots): 123 .

After contacting Apple on December 26, 2019, I was further disappointed as they asked me not to share this information. Despite my attempts, they never came back to indicate that they had fixed the issue. Here are my efforts to get them to address this problem: ( screenshots: 1234567 ).

Posted in Tech Blog
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