[ISN] Hackers looking forward to iPhone

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Sun Jan 14 2007 - 22:30:42 PST


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 
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 

"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 
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."

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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