The new operating system has been available over the web and has been accessed by security researchers and hackers since at least February, according to new reports.
The new iOS update might let users change their default messaging and music apps, according to Apple blog 9to5Mac, which said it had a copy of the leaked software. It also reportedly includes a new fitness app, new updates to the Apple Pencil for the iPad, and a new home screen layout.
However, if these updates are based on a leaked operating system, it’s possible the smartphone giant could pull them before its expected announcement at an online-WWDC on 22 June.
Five people in the jailbreaking community speaking to Vice said that the source was likely a development iPhone 11 running a version of iOS 14 dated to December 2019.
This code was then traded or leaked to security researchers, giving them the opportunity to look into the code and find ways to attack it, according to four people in security research.
Speaking to Wired, Patrick Wardle, an Apple security researcher at the enterprise management firm Jamf, said that leaked iOS builds probably intrude some analysis tools unique to Apple that are never released to the public.
“The rest of iOS 14 will be out in beta shortly but in my opinion having access now to internal content—security tools, tests, and fuzzer—would be the most valuable part of the leak to security researchers”, he said.
A fuzzer is an automated software testing technique which involves adding unexpected or random data into a computer program to test its reactions to unexpected actions.
The existence of such an early version of iOS 14 suggests that hackers are taking a proactive approach to jailbreaking iPhones, which allows them to remove the usual restrictions imposed by Apple. There is already a hack available for all versions of iOS between 11 and 13.5, with hackers suggesting that current hacks in place for iOS 14 will still work – or will be updated – to the same efficiency on the day when the new operating system will come out.
While Wardle has suggested that the iOS 14 leak is related to the iOS 13.5 jailbreak that was revealed over the weekend, the hackers associated with the jailbreak said to Wired that there is no connection between the two.
“Getting your hands on an iOS early in beta format can be extremely useful for developers. However, to be given such vast access so early on opens up possible illicit use of the file system,” said Jake Moore, a Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET
“Criminal hackers will always look for loopholes and vulnerabilities in any OS, so by nature it would be wise to try and keep a lid on the ecosystem for as long as possible to reduce the chance of those vulnerabilities being located. The worst case scenario that threatens Apple and its users is that when iOS 14 is released there is already an exploit alongside it and a ready-to-go jailbreak version.
“Apple will have to make extremely sure that any bugs found in this released iOS are patched before it’s brought to market to be confident any found vulnerabilities aren’t exploited. So it’s now a race against time or even a battle between Apple’s ethical hackers and the criminal unethical hackers.”