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Hackers looking forward to iPhone

'People are salivating over it,' says one security researcher

By Robert McMillan
January 13, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service -

Technology fetishists aren't the only folks itching to get their hands on an iPhone. Hackers want to play with Apple Inc.'s new toy, too.

Within hours of Apple's iPhone unveiling on Tuesday, the iPhone was a hot topic on the Dailydave discussion list, a widely read forum on security research.

Much of the discussion centered on the processor that Apple may have chosen to power its new device and what kind of assembly language "shellcode" might work on this chip. "Is this beast running an ARM?" wrote reverse-engineering expert Havlar Flake. "I have doubts about a mobile device being based on x86, so does anyone have details about what sort of shellcode needs to be written?"

In an e-mail interview, one of the hackers behind the "Month of Apple Bugs" project, which is disclosing new Apple security vulnerabilities every day for the month of January, said he "would love to mess with" the iPhone.

"If it's really going to run OS X, [the iPhone] will bring certain security implications, such as potential misuses of wireless connectivity facilities [and] deployment of malware in a larger scale," the hacker known as LMH wrote in an e-mail. He declined to provide his real name.

Because the device could include a range of advanced computing features, such as Apple's Bonjour service-discovery protocol, it could provide many avenues of attack, according to LMH. "The possibilities of a worm for smartphones are something to worry about," he wrote. "Imagine Bonjour, and all the mess of features that OS X has, concentrated in a highly portable device which relies on wireless connectivity."

"This is all speculation right now, until a technical specification is released by Apple on its features and technology," he added.

David Maynor is another security researcher interested in the iPhone. Maynor's videotaped demonstration of a MacBook being hacked over a wireless network received widespread attention at last year's Black Hat USA conference, although Maynor and his co-presentor were later criticized for the way they presented their research. They demonstrated these flaws using a third-party wireless card rather than the one that ships with the MacBook, and they still have not published the code they used.

"I can't wait to get one," said Maynor, who is chief technology officer at Errata Security LLC. "There's already a lot of discussion going on, and it's not coming out for another six months. People are salivating over it."

Because the iPhone will be new and relatively untested, but running a familiar operating system, Maynor believes that there will be plenty of places for hackers to look for bugs. "My feeling is that this is going to be one of the easier devices to find vulnerabilities in."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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