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Does Activation Lock Bypass By Hermanth Joseph and Benjamin Kunz Really Work?

Updated on November 19, 2017
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Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

Many of you probably heard about the two IOS exploits of November 2016 which allowed Hermanth Joseph and Benjamin Kunz‘ to bypass’ iPad Activation lock screen. These exploits took advantage of buffer overflow bug in iPads running IOS 10.1 and 10.1.1.

Up until then, no other exploit held ground, save for the infamous DoulCi bypass of 2014, which was actually legit but only lasted a couple of days. DoulCi bypass worked by mimicking Apple servers and fooled iPhones and iPads into believing they were hooked onto Cupertino servers. Thus they accepted whatever instructions that were sent to them i.e. bypass the activation lock.

The dreaded iPad Activation Lock
The dreaded iPad Activation Lock

The Two Exploits Explained

The two exploits of November 2016 worked differently from douCi. The hacks allowed iPad owners locked out of their iCloud accounts to enter long strings of characters probably in excess of 10,000 into the Username/Name and Password fields of the Other Network dialog screen. This action apparently froze the iPads into submission, thereby giving Hermanth and Benjamin access to the Home screen.

• Buffer Overflow Exploit From Hermanth Joseph of Slash Secure

Hermanth Joseph was the first to hack into the iPad and thus notify the world about the overflow bug in IOS 10.1.

He was motivated to do so after purchasing an iPad from eBay that was locked to another user’s iCloud account.

When prompted to connect to the internet in order to verify the Apple ID in the iPad, he opted for Other Network and WPA2-Enterprise under security. The latter because it allows for limitless character input.

He chose to hog the IOS security layer by entering very, very long strings of characters into the Username and Password fields with the aim of causing an overflow error. These fields are not designed to accept extended strings of characters. Lengthy characters caused the iPad to get a hiccup, thereby freezing. Any other activity around this time would cause other untold glitches.

In Josephs’ case, he complemented the above procedure by closing and opening the iPad smart screen cover. Apparently, this caused the iPad to reach breaking point thereby, giving access to the Home screen.

He was able to bypass the activation lock screen and gained access to the home screen, only for a moment, though!

Joseph reported the exploit to Apple on the 4th of November, prompting the company to release IOS 10.1.1 in response.

• Buffer Overflow Exploit From Benjamin Kunz of Vulnerability Lab

The release of IOS 10.1.1 however, did not stop others from digging for further bugs in the same security layer.

Because soon after, Benjamin Kunz of Vulnerability Lab came up with a similar but slightly different approach to tasking the iPad and IOS 10.1.1.

Besides entering the crazy long strings of characters into the Name and Password fields under WPA2 security, he also rotated the iPad and used the Night Shift mode to create additional stress.

With well-timed button presses, Benjamin gained brief access to the Home screen in the supposedly overflow-free IOS release.

Apple later released IOS 10.2 in order to fix the Benjamin exploit alongside other new features to the iPad and iPhone.

Can this Exploit Entirely Bypass the Activation Lock Screen ?

Following the release of the two exploits, two questions remain unanswered for many users out there.

  • Can they truly use these exploits to access the iPad for sure?
  • Does his exploit work with the iPhone?

As noted in Josephs’ and Benjamin’s’ exploits, you can only get a brief access to the Home screen and nothing else. As soon as the Home screen flashes, the Activation screen will pop up soon after, thereby locking the iPhone from access.

Suffice to say, if you still run the IOS versions mentioned above, you can still toy around with the hacks and see if you can gain access to the home screen.

If your target is to get complete access to the Home screen and the entire iPad though, you are out of luck. Because it will not happen. All you will get will be split second visualization of the Home screen. You will not have the chance to make changes to the embedded Apple ID.

You will not have the chance to make changes to the embedded Apple ID.

Also of note is that this exploit only works on iPads running IOS 10.1 and 10.1.1. Apple fixed the above overflow related exploits by releasing IOS 10.2.

Also to prevent massive exploitation of the said firmware versions, Apple stopped signing the two mentioned IOS versions so as to block whoever wished to upgrade or downgrade.

Have you tried the two exploits mentioned above if your iPad is still running IOS 10.1 and 10.1.1 ?

See results

Does This Exploit Work With The iPhone?

The exploits mentioned above only work with the iPad and not iPhone. This is because, the iPhone, unlike the iPad, does not use the screen cover feature by default.

For the exploits to work without stalling, like when you use the Sleep and Wake actions of the Power/Sleep button, you have to take advantage of the magnetic feature in the iPad smart cover.

The Power/Sleep button on the other hand basically turns the exploit procedure off, and you have to start afresh.

There you have it.

© 2016 Alfred Amuno


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