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Apple drags its heels on iPhone security patches

Waiting for the second coming

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Apple has failed to keep software for the iPhone up to date with patches available for its desktop PCs.

The latest version of the software for the iPhone, 1.1.4, came out in February and is essentially a pared-down version of Mac OS 10.5, according to security researchers. As a result the Jesus phone is still vulnerable to an exploit demonstrated by Charlie Miller at the CanSec West security conference back in March. Miller used a bug in Apple WebKit, as used in versions of Safari prior to version 3.1.1, to win a $10,000 prize in the "Pwn to Own" contest at the conference.

Apple issued patches for its desktop machines in April but is yet to patch the Jesus phone.

Miller told the Washington Post that he's created a tool that exploits this vulnerability in the version of Safari running on the iPhone. In the wrong hands the utility could allow the theft of call records or contacts, providing a user of the phone is tricked into opening a maliciously constructed link. The approach might also be used to make outgoing calls from the device.

Other vulnerabilities involving Safari and the iPhone are in the pipeline, though they are not as critical. Security researcher Aviv Raff has discovered a security bug in the software combination that might allow phishing attacks. Raff is withholding details of the fix pending a security update from Apple.

In related news, security firm MX Logic reckons that iPhone-related scams will occur if demand outstrips supply of 3G versions of the iPhone, due to begin arriving on 11 July. Security watchers speculate that Apple has been focused on developing software for the next generation of the iPhone rather than addressing problems with version 1.x of the iPhone software. ®

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