Understanding the Apple Auto Unlock Protocol

Bachelor Thesis


Analysis: 6
Empiricism: 9
Implementation: 5
Literature Research: 3


Abstract of final thesis:

The Apple Watch provides the ability to automatically unlock a device running macOS when in proximity. The underlying proprietary protocol is called Auto Unlock (AU) and differs from other smart locking techniques. It uses a combination of two wireless technologies: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and IEEE 802.11, to facilitate secure proximity detection. In this work we analyze the protocol by using reverse engineering and dynamic debugging. We show that AU uses both standardized protocols as well as proprietary techniques to implement a secure distance bounding protocol. With this knowledge, we discuss attack vectors and conduct a successful Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack on the protocol. Furthermore, we provide a starting point to allow implementations on other platforms by specifying the protocol and establish the foundation for further attacks.

End: 30.11.2017


Student: Steffen Klee

Research Areas: CYSEC, Sichere Mobile Netze, CRISP



Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Hollick

Technische Universität Darmstadt
Department of Computer Science
Secure Mobile Networking Lab 

Mornewegstr. 32 (S4/14)
64293 Darmstadt, Germany

Phone: +49 6151 16-25472
Fax: +49 6151 16-25471


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