Feeds

Apple's iPhone: theoretical risks of unreleased handset

Symantec stokes Apple hype engine

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Apple's iPhone is unlikely to become a gateway device for mobile malware, Symantec says. The handset will run an operating system based on Mac OS X, thus opening the possibility that the small number of viruse targeting the platform might be re-purposed to infect iPhone.

However, Concerns about possible mobile infestation of iPhones are "premature" at worst according to Eric Chien, an anti-virus researcher at Symantec.

For one thing the iPhone will be locked down so that consumers will be able to install only selected third party applications. While not dismissing the possibility that iPhone-specific malware could be created, Chien reckons it won't reach the levels currently seen with smart phones running Symbian OS. Nonetheless, vulnerabilities in Mac OS X could create future problems, he warns.

"The likely vectors of infection will be via any vulnerabilities on the device that allow code to execute. Unfortunately, just a single malware writer taking advantage of a single vulnerability could cause havoc, but for the most part such attacks will be limited," he writes.

"If the iPhone remains a closed device with not even Java applications or widgets let alone native code, the risk of infection becomes orders of magnitude lower."

Even though the iPhone is "locked down", interest in the technology is likely to spur the creation of home-brew hacks. The motives of these users is simply to run their own code on the phone, but the techniques pioneered by tech enthusiasts might be re-purposed for more malign purposes.

"Once they install and execute unknown code on their device, there is always a chance of executing malicious code. This scenario happened in the past with the Sony PSP and PSPBrick Trojan," Chien notes.

A mono-culture of devices running the same OS, knowledge among hackers about how software on the device works have been factors driving the creation of numerous items of malware on Windows PCs and the reason why mobile malware, despite considerable hype from some quarters, has been mercifully rare. Chien concludes that this is unlikely to change much with the arrival of iPhones later this year.

His analysis is published on Symantec's security blog here. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Will BlackBerry make a comeback with its SQUARE smartphones?
Plus PC PIMs from company formerly known as RIM
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.