Authorities won't rule out legal action in iPhone Ikee case

Local authorities have refused to indicate whether any action will be taken against the Australian programmer who claimed to spread the world’s first iPhone virus.

A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it is aware of the situation but refused to say if legal proceedings would be initiated against 21-year-old Wollongong resident Ashley Towns, who made global headlines by creating the worm, ‘Ikee’, out of “curiosity and boredom”.

A spokesperson for the telco involved in the iPhone story that broke this week, Optus, also would not indicate whether the company will take any action against Towns.

“Our initial investigation indicates that the situation only affects customers who have tampered with their settings, or what is commonly known as jailbreaking their phones, and Optus does not provide customer support to jailbroken phones,” a spokesperson told Computerworld.

The worm changes iPhone owners’ wallpaper and replaces it with a photo of ‘80s pop star Rick Astley and the message “ikee is never going to give you up”.

The worm can affect jailbroken iPhones running a Unix utility called SSH (Secure Shell) with the iPhone's default password, "alpine," still in use.

Once in place, the worm appears to attempt to find other iPhones on the mobile phone network that are similarly vulnerable, and installs itself again.

Security expert and director of penetration testing firm HackLabs, Chris Gatford, said he does not believe any action should be taken against Towns, as the worm does not appear malicious and doesn’t have the potential to spread much further.

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He also added that less jailbreaking occurs today, compared with a year ago, as the iPhone App Store has made more unique apps available.

“There is a group of iPhone users called ‘power users’ who will always want more functionality than what the default Apple iPhone offers,” Gatford said.

“And from what I’ve heard, there is less jailbreaking going on nowadays because there a more apps available in the App Store and people can now can access some functions they weren’t able to a year ago.

“But there will always be a minority of users that want to break it, bend it, tweak it and modify it because it’s part of the hacker psyche to make things do what they weren’t intended to do.”

What's your RickRolling experience? Found a fix to Rick? Email Computerworld or follow @computerworldau on Twitter.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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