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Jailbroken iPhones exposed by new attack code

Up to 8 percent of iPhones at risk

Another piece of dangerous code that attacks iPhones has been found, although it puts at risk only a very small subset of the smartphone's users.

Mac security vendor Intego calls the code 'iPhone/Privacy.A'. It is a malicious tool hackers install on Windows, Mac, Unix or Linux systems, and even on iPhones, using those devices to scan for 'jailbroken' iPhones, some of which are vulnerable to the malware.

If it finds a vulnerable iPhone within its range, the malware copies email, contacts, SMS (Short Message Service) messages, calendar entries, photos, music, videos and any data recorded by an iPhone application, according to an advisory from Intego.

"This hacker tool could easily be installed, for example, on a computer on display in a retail store, which could then scan all iPhones that pass within the reach of its network," Intego said. "Or, a hacker could sit in an Internet café and let his computer scan all iPhones that come within the range of the Wi-Fi network in search of data. "

However, the tool can only attack jailbroken iPhones, or ones that have been modified to run unapproved software, that are running SSH (Secure Shell), a Unix utility with the default password enabled.

It's estimated that between 6 percent to 8 percent of iPhone users have jailbroken their phones. The latest malware would only affect those who haven't changed that default passwords for SSH, which is 'alpine'.

SSH allows the iPhone to connect to another device over the internet. It is the same issue that allowed the first iPhone worm, called "ikee," to spread last week, which changed the wallpaper of vulnerable iPhones to an image of '80s singer Rick Astley.

That malware was written by Ashley Towns, a 21-year-old unemployed programmer from Wollogong, Australia. Authorities there haven't said if they'll prosecute Towns.

Intego said its VirusBarrier X5 software will detect iPhone/Privacy.A and advised that users should not jailbreak their iPhones since it puts them at higher security risk.

See also:

iPhone 3GS review

Try out our virtual BlackBerry

Smartphone reviews

Mobile phone news


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