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IBM warns of iPhone hack threat

Hackers ready to target Apple's iPhone

IBM's security division, Internet Security Systems, has warned that hackers will try to exploit any flaws in Apple’s iPhone, challenged by the massive buzz surrounding the device.

"Apple is good at creating interest about a product even before it's released," said Neel Mehta, the team leader of advance research group at ISS, speaking to InformationWeek.

"This will make the iPhone a definite target, at least by security researchers. We've been following it since it was announced. It's going to be challenging for the bad guys to exploit them like they do other [smartphones], but there will be a lot of individuals willing to try because of the amount of buzz around it. We've seen some very determined attacks on other mobile phone platforms, like the Symbian platform. A lot of these attacks are going to be very hard to launch against the iPhone."

ISS hasn’t yet got its hands on an iPhone but suggests the lack of a software developer's kit means Apple can limit both third-party software and potential attacks, making it a lot harder for hackers and malware writers to take advantage of it.

"They're not telling anyone how to write applications that run on the iPhone," added Mehta. "It's going to be much harder to write worms or viruses for that platform. Most malware written today for mobile platforms has been developed using software developer kits from the manufacturers. The lack of that on the iPhone will make it harder for people to develop malware for it."

Mehta also suggested Apple’s emphasis on regular software updates, and the fact that the phone is likely to be hooked up to a computer, means users will be more likely to stay current with upgrades and patches, so the device will be better protected from malware.

Mehta also warned that because the iPhone is such a complex device, the potential for problems is greater. Such complexity could also attract sophisticated hackers rising to the challenge of exploiting the iPhone. "It will likely take a very sophisticated attack and a very sophisticated attacker to compromise an iPhone," Mehta said. “It will take a level of sophistication that we haven't seen much of. But there will be a lot of people trying." An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the iPhone's security features.

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