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Tuesday, 31 March 2020 11:53

iOS bug blocks VPNs from encrypting all traffic: claim

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iOS bug blocks VPNs from encrypting all traffic: claim Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

Security firm ProtonVPN has detailed a security vulnerability in iOS version 13.4 that prevents virtual private networks from encrypting all traffic. The company said it rated the vulnerability as medium.

The company said in an advisory that it was revealing details of the flaw even though Apple had not yet released a fix for it because it was important to bring it to the notice of both the ProtonVPN community and other VPN providers and their users.

The normal procedure is to notify a vendor of a bug and then wait for 90 days before revealing details.

Explaining the flaw, ProtonVPN said the typical behaviour when one connected to a VPN was that the operating system would close all existing Internet connections and then set them up again through the VPN tunnel.

A member of its community found that this flaw existed when anyone having a device running iOS 13.3.1 used a VPN.

While most connections did not last very long and would be re-established through the VPN tunnel, some lasted for a long time and could stay open outside the VPN tunnel for minutes to hours.

The advisory said this vulnerability also existed in iOS version 13.4.

The flaw could result in user data being exposed if the affected connections were not encrypted. But a more common problem was IP leaks, where an attacker was able to view a user's IP address and the IP address of the server to which a connection was being made.

Apart from this, the server to which the user made a connection would be able to view the IP of the user rather than that of the VPN.

The advisory said that no VPN service could provide a fix as iOS did not allow a VPN to take down existing network connections.

One workaround that was listed was to turn on airplane mode after connecting to a ProtonVPN server, which would result in all connections being killed and temporarily disconnect the VPN.

After this, if airplane mode was turned off, ProtonVPN would reconnect and other connections within the VPN tunnel would also reconnect.

Apple suggested using Always-on VPN to mitigate the issue but this does not fix the issue for third-party applications.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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