• Apple iPhone.

Apple iPhone. (Photo : Getty Images)

Serious security vulnerabilities exist in the Apple iOS, the operating system used in Apple's iPhone and iPad devices, said an international team of computer science researchers

The team said the vulnerabilities make a variety of attacks possible after identifying dangerous security vulnerabilities in the iOS.

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They focused on the iOS' "sandbox," which serves as the interface between applications and the iOS. The iOS sandbox uses a set "profile" for every third-party app. This profile controls the information that the app has access to and governs which actions the app can execute.

To see if the sandbox profile contained any vulnerabilities that might be exploited by third-party apps, researchers first extracted the compiled binary code of the sandbox profile. They then decompiled the code so that it could be read by humans.

They then used the decompiled code to make a model of the profile, and ran series of automated tests in that model to identify potential vulnerabilities. Researchers ultimately identified vulnerabilities that allowed them to launch different types of attacks via third-party apps.

These attacks include:

* Methods of bypassing the iOS's privacy settings for contacts;

* Methods of learning a user's location search history;

* Methods of inferring sensitive information (such as when photos were taken) by accessing metadata of system files;

* Methods of obtaining the user's name and media library;

* Methods of consuming disk storage space that cannot be recovered by uninstalling the malicious app;

* Methods of preventing access to system resources such as the address book and

* Methods that allow apps to share information with each other without permission.

"There's been a lot of research done on Android's operating systems, so we wanted to take a closer look at Apple's iOS," said William Enck, an associate professor of computer science at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper describing the work.

"Our goal was to identify any potential problems before they became real-world problems."

"We are already discussing these vulnerabilities with Apple. They're working on fixing the security flaws, and on policing any apps that might try to take advantage of them."