Zerodium Expects iOS Exploit Prices to Drop as It Announces Surplus

Exploit acquisition firm Zerodium announced this week that it’s no longer buying certain types of iOS exploits due to surplus, and the company expects prices to drop in the near future.

Zerodium said on Twitter it would no longer acquire iOS local privilege escalation, Safari remote code execution, and sandbox escape exploits in the next 2-3 months “due to a high number of submissions related to these vectors.”

The company says it expects prices to drop for one-click exploit chains that do not provide persistence.

Zerodium on value of iOS exploits

Chaouki Bekrar, CEO and founder of Zerodium, said on Twitter that only pointer authentication codes (PACs) — they provide protection against unexpected changes to pointers in memory — and the difficulty to achieve persistence “are holding [iOS security] from going to zero.”

“iOS Security is fucked,” said Bekrar, noting that they are already seeing many exploits designed to bypass PAC and a few zero-day exploits that can help an attacker achieve persistence on all iPhones and iPads. “Let’s hope iOS 14 will be better,” he added.

“The demand for both iOS and Android exploits has always been very high but the supply was low due to the technical challenges faced during the development of these exploits,” Bekrar told SecurityWeek. “However for the last few months, we’ve observed a spike in the number of iOS submissions (specifically Safari remote code execution, sandbox escapes, and privilege escalations) and we were forced to react by first reducing our prices, and now by pausing our acquisitions of such capabilities for the next two to three months.”

“The spike is likely caused by the increased number of researchers looking into iOS and probably by the availability of public jailbreaks which are helping researchers to reverse engineer iOS devices more easily and find bugs faster. On the other hand, the number of Android submissions remains stable,” Bekrar said. 

Others also confirmed that the price of iOS exploits has been dropping.

According to its website, Zerodium is prepared to pay up to $2 million for iOS exploit chains that achieve persistence and require no user interaction. On the other hand, the same types of exploits targeting Android are worth up to $2.5 million.

Apple has patched many iOS vulnerabilities in the past year, including ones that could have been exploited to remotely hack iPhones.

The tech giant is running a public bug bounty program through which it’s prepared to pay out up to $1 million for exploits that achieve persistence, bypass PAC and require no user interaction.

Related: Zero-Day Vulnerabilities in iOS Mail App Exploited in Targeted Attacks

Related: Apple Finds No Evidence of Attacks Targeting iOS Mail App Vulnerabilities

Related: Zerodium Offers $500,000 for VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V Exploits

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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