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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Daringly Firey Challenge to Maynor and Ellch

If you haven't heard the names "David Maynor" and "Jon Ellch" before, here's the scoop. A few weeks ago, they reportedly demonstrated that it was possible to attack a MacBook via a passive AirPort interface, and gain remote access to the machine. This demonstration was then blogged by someone working for the Washington Post. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the demonstration were extremely sketchy, and the report so vague, that the whole mess has caused much more question-asking than question-answering. There are a couple of Daring Fireball posts that examine the situation in more detail.

Suffice it to say, the shoddy reporting and resulting discussion/flame-war has significantly clouded the issue, and distracted/angered entirely too many people. With an issue this important, with such potentially far-reaching consequences, this is simply not cool at all. We need to focus on the real issue, and we need answers.

John Gruber's idea for getting some of these much needed answers: an open challenge to Mr. Maynor and Mr. Ellch. If they can, in a controlled and documented setting, demonstrate that an out-of-the-box MacBook can be successfully attacked in the way they've described, they'll get said MacBook for free. In his words...

It comes down to this. If I’m wrong, it’d be worth $1099 to know that MacBook users are in fact at risk. And if I’m right, someone needs to call Maynor and Ellch on their bullshit.

See the Open Challenge for specifics and whatnot.


  • I might be missing something, but if Im not mistaken in the video where they do their "hacking" they say that they use an 3rd party card an the flaw is not in the Mac but in the driver for the 3rd party card. And as far as I know when you buy a Mac you dont get no 3rd party card out of the box.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 AM  

  • Does Anyone know if the challenge was accepted??

    I'm dying of curiosity to see this, it would be a first in history.

    By Anonymous Bryan Connor, at 1:28 PM  

  • Excuse me for my ignorance, but what is a "passive AirPort interface"


    By Blogger Nicolas, at 1:35 PM  

  • anonymous:
    You're not mistaken. That's one of the things about the demonstration that is VERY fishy. They use a 3rd party device AND driver, yet they claim to have found an industry-wide problem/vulnerability. This is one of the things that the challenge is designed to clear up.

    The key is the word "passive". An "active" AirPort interface would be one that's connected and communicating with an access point. Being "passive" means that it's just sitting there with power on, not connected to anything.

    If they'd broken and exploited an active connection, whatever. There are man-in-the-middle attacks all over the place that are relatively common knowledge. But gaining remote access with only a passive device to work with? That's a lot more scary. One would think that you'd be safe if your machine weren't engaged in an active connection. No IP, no packet traffic, etc etc. These guys claim that you're not.

    Combine that bit of scary with the pretty blatant poke at Apple, and you've got the flame-war mess I mentioned in the post.

    The Daring Fireball posts I linked to do great job of clearly outlining the claims, repercussions, and some of the responses that surround this issue.

    By Blogger theMatt, at 4:36 PM  

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