By Robert McMillan
January 13, 2007
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
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"
"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
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
"I can't wait to get one," said Maynor, who is chief technology officer
with 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
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."
But there is one other factor that will also help determine how often
the iPhone is hacked: its popularity. If nobody buys the $499 device,
then it become less interesting to hackers.
On the other hand, if it becomes as popular as the iPod, it "will become
the preferred target for writers of mobile malware," wrote Kaspersky Lab
Ltd. Senior Research Engineer Roel Schouwenberg in a recent blog
The fact that hackers looking for OS X bugs would possibly have two
platforms to exploit -- Apple's computers and the iPhone -- would "mean
an increase in the number of vulnerabilities identified in Apple's
workstation OS," he wrote.
Apple seems to be aware of the problem. Although the company was unable
to provide an executive who could comment on the security of its
products during this week's Macworld conference, the company was quick
to respond to Havlar Flake's question on the Dailydave discussion list.
"Do you really want to know the answer to this question?" wrote Apple's
Simon Cooper. "If so, then you should apply, get offered and accept the
software security position I currently have open at Apple. This is work
in Core OS for Mac OS X."
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