A potential security flaw in iCloud Private Relay (opens in new tab) can lead Apple’s VPN (opens in new tab) to ignore firewall (opens in new tab) rules and send some data back to the iPhone maker’s servers.
This leak itself was first discovered by the VPN company Mullvad (opens in new tab) which was monitoring network connections while working on its own app.
Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker's Manual 2022 (opens in new tab). Help us find how businesses are preparing for the post-Covid world and the implications of these activities on their cybersecurity plans. Enter your email at the end of this survey (opens in new tab) to get the bookazine, worth $10.99/£10.99.
For those unfamiliar, Private Relay functions in a similar way to a VPN tunnel (opens in new tab) or how Tor (opens in new tab) works by routing a user’s encrypted network through relay servers before it reaches the internet. The service is currently still in beta and is only available in certain regions though it also requires a paid iCloud+ (opens in new tab) subscription.
TechRadar Pro reached out to Apple regarding this potential leak in iCloud Private Relay but we’ve yet to hear back at the time of writing. However, since the service is still in beta, this issue could be rectified before it becomes generally available. Since iCloud Private Relay’s beta release coincided with the launch of iOS 15, Apple could make the service available in full with the release of iOS 16 (opens in new tab) in September of this year.
Ignoring firewall rules
According to a new blog post (opens in new tab) from Mullvad, the VPN company was monitoring network connections when it noticed that QUIC (opens in new tab) traffic was leaving one of its computers outside of a VPN tunnel.
Disabling Apple’s Private Relay feature made the leaks stop and the company has even provided instructions so that other users can reproduce the leak on their own. Mullvad also pointed out in its blog post that Private Relay (mostly) disables itself as soon as any firewall rule is added to the Packet Filter (PF) system firewall on macOS devices.
> T-Mobile denies blocking iCloud Private Relay, but admits some users won't have access
(opens in new tab)
> What is Apple Private Relay and is it worse than a VPN? (opens in new tab)
> This Google Chrome challenger could be the best browser for private surfing (opens in new tab)
As such, the company believes that the leak itself is just some kind of heartbeat signal calling home to Apple. Although it’s impossible to know what information is transmitted to Apple’s servers, the leak does send a clear message to both your local network and ISP that you might be a macOS user.
At this time, Mullvad is unaware of any way to prevent Private Relay from leaking user traffic back to Apple but the company recommends that users disable the feature altogether for the time being if their threat model forbids their local network or ISP from knowing what kinds of devices they’re currently using.
- Work securely from anywhere with one of the best business VPNs (opens in new tab)
Via AppleInsider (opens in new tab)