Saturday, January 19, 2008

iPhone Hacks and Threats to Personal Privacy

We’ve been amazed by it since its introduction. Who can’t remember the address given by Steve Jobs of Apple when he introduced the revolutionary iPhone? Who wasn’t amazed at the device that was capable of surfing the web, taking pictures, listening to music and of course receiving and placing calls? Nothing new, right? Just as the iPhone was released, hackers around North America started to dig into what makes this tick. The primary reason was to unlock the phone so that you didn’t have to sign-up with ATandT but with any carrier that supported the technology. But could there me more nefarious reasons to hack the iPhone? Skilled hackers could now take their phone onto any carrier, but more importantly they could create and enable custom ring tones (without having to pay for buying ring tones), enable custom wallpapers and more. In process of hacking into the iPhone, several tidbits were gleaned - such as the fact that the software on the iPhone runs as root - in the Unix world this basically gives you full and complete access to the machine. You could bring down entire servers and even chains of servers if you have ROOT access to a Unix machine. So how does this impact you, the average user of the Apple iPhone that isn’t planning on hacking into their phone? Well someone may want to hack into your phone and they now have the blueprint to do it. While Apple is working hard to try and prevent hacking by playing cat and mouse game, it will always be a cat and mouse game. If you happen to surf into a questionable website that happens to download software to your iPhone you could end up in a whole heap of trouble. In an article in the New York Times Technology section from July 23, 2007, an iPhone flaw was found to let hackers take over the iPhone. Remember that most people store entire lives on their digital assistants (whether this is a Smart Phone, the iPhone or even a PDA). They keep names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses on them. Not to mention passwords, banking information (such as bank account numbers) and even digital images taken by the built-in camera. Now imagine if a hacker has access to all this data. The security firm, Independent Security Advisors found that through common flaws (and without even hacking into the phone) they were able to gain unauthorized access to the contents of the phone through a WiFi connection or by tricking users into visiting websites that insert malicious code onto the phone. The hack enabled the firm to gain a wealth of personal information that the phone contained. Dr. Miller, who was a former employee of the National Security Agency also demonstrated the hack by visiting a website of his own design, inserting some malicious code onto the phone and then proceeding to have the phone transmit data to the attacking computer. He went on to say that the attack could be used to program the phone to make calls thereby running up the phone bill of the user not to mention the phone could be used to spy on the individual by turning it into a portable bugging device - remember, it does have a built-in camera. How can you protect yourself? As with any device, common sense should prevail. Don’t open e-mails from people you don’t know - if you open them, and there are attachments avoid opening the attachments or visiting the websites in question. Since the Apple iPhone has automatic updates, always ensure your iPhone has the latest updates by visiting the manufacturer’s site. If you are very concerned about threats to your iPhone you may also want to visit the website, which is run by Independent Security Evaluators to stay on top of hacks and threats to your personal data on the iPhone. Even doing simple searches in Yahoo, Google, or MSN with iPhone hacking threats will give you a wealth of information. Copyright © Mohammed Bhimji Get more information about adware, spyware, malware and viruses plus information on wireless wifi theft and securing your wireless connection at

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