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Palm Trojan Horse writer sued

But it was all a ghastly mistake, says programmer

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Repentant mistake-making programmers beware: admit to your error, and you could find yourself in court.

That's what appears to be happening to Aaron Ardiri, creator of the Trojan Horse 'virus' that had the Palm world quaking in its HotSync cradles t'other week.

The 'virus', dubbed Crack 1.1, was released in an application that patched Liberty, a GameBoy emulator for the Palm. Run the patch and - bingo - all your applications vanish into the ether. It sounded pretty damn nasty.

It was also a mistake. Ardiri claims he was developing a program that would scour a Palm for redundant data and preferences files and remove them - the crack app was designed to prepare the Palm for the scouring process. It also seems to have taken on a life as an anti-cracker app, and it's in this guise that it caused all the trouble.

Ardiri sent the app to "a few" friends in the Palm cracking community, and before he knew it, the code was all over the place, making it out into the Palm warez world and from there into the Palm mainstream. Ardiri quickly requested that warez users prevent the 'virus' from spreading.

To his credit, Ardiri quickly wrote a utility that can scan a Palm for the patch or modified versions of it, but that doesn't seem to have been enough for one unnamed Palm owner who, according to Palmstation.com is suing both Ardiri and Gambit Studios, creator of the Liberty emulator.

Details of the action are as yet vague, though Palmstation.com notes it has been confirmed by two separate sources. The plaintiff apparently lost his or her applications after downloading the patch presumably believing it to be an upgrade for an installed copy of Liberty 1.1.

Of course, assuming the action is actually happening - in other words, it's not someone just mouthing off because they're angry - getting damages for lost applications might prove tricky. Gambit has nothing to do with the patch, and would argue that it is in no way liable for the code's effects.

Ardiri, however, has publicly admitted he wrote the software, but his actions at minimising its effects surely call for some mitigation. He also quickly posted information on how its effects could be reversed.

The plaintiff is in some ways culpable too, for not adequately backing up his or her software. True, few people in the real world do make regular back-ups, but in the Palm world such procedures are commonplace, thanks to the HotSync process. ®

Related Links

You can read Ardiri's comments on the Liberty crack controversy here
You can download the crack scanner here

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