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July 24, 2007

The iPhone Has Been Hacked

By Raju Shanbhag, TMCnet Contributing Editor

First came the hype, followed by unprecedented fan following all over the world. Now, iPhone (News - Alert), one of the most talked about gadgets in recent times, is coming under intense scrutiny from the experts. According to published reports, a computer security firm in the United States has found a huge security hole in Apple's (News - Alert) popular new iPhone. According to the firm, hackers can take any files they want, ranging from emails to text messages to phone numbers, from any user’s iPhone without the user’s awareness. In other words they can take total control of your device!



Independent Security Evaluators has informed Apple of the flaw and analysts at the company feel that it can be remedied with a fairly straightforward software patch. It is unclear whether, until then, the data of iPhone owners will be at risk.

A spokeswoman for Apple told the New York Times yesterday that the company was looking into the report submitted by ISE. She also said that the company always welcomes feedback on how to improve the security of its devices. Apple takes security seriously and has an enviable track record of addressing potential vulnerabilities.

For many experts, the news is neither shocking nor alarming. The iPhone is more like a small computer than a mobile phone. Since Apple launched the iPhone, many experts have been warning that it is vulnerable to the security risks a normal computer has to face, including worms and virus attacks. However, if proven, this will be the first major vulnerability discovered on the iPhone.

The hacking method is strikingly similar to the way Internet security is breached. The gullible user may be lured into entering into a website that will install the malicious codes on the iPhone. Once that is done, the phone is at hacker’s mercy. He can download any files he wants and he can make as many calls as he wants, resulting in huge bills to the shocked customer.

But entering a malicious website is not the only way to install these codes on the iPhone. Users who inadvertently tap into a rogue WiFi connection can also compromise the integrity of their iPhone if the WiFi (News - Alert) connection is being used to launch malicious code.

So what should iPhone users be doing? Well, even the remedies offered are strikingly similar to the Internet remedies. Do not browse to unknown or suspicious websites and use only those WiFi connections you are familiar with are the suggestions given by security experts.

The ISE is demonstrating the basic method for breaking down the iPhone's fortifications at www.exploitingiphone.com. Of course, the site does not give a detailed instruction on how to hack the iPhone.

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Raju Shanbhag is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.







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