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Malware cleans out jailbroken iPhones

Hack tool wriggles through Rickroll worm hole

Application security programs and practises

Updated Miscreants have developed a hacking tool that attacks jailbroken iPhones.

iPhone-Privacy-A follows hot on the heels of last weekend's Rickrolling worm that changed the wallpaper on vulnerable iPhones to an image of cheesy '80s pop star Rick Astley. The latest hacking threat exploits the same vulnerability in the iPhone as the ikee worm, allowing hackers to connect to any jailbroken iPhone.

Mac-specialist security firm Intego, which was the first to warn of the threat, said the hacker tool is far more dangerous than the Rickrolling worm.

"When connecting to a jailbroken iPhone, this tool allows a hacker to silently copy a treasure trove of user data from a compromised iPhone: e-mail, contacts, SMSs, calendars, photos, music files, videos, as well as any data recorded by any iPhone app," Intego warns. "Unlike the ikee worm, which signals its presence by changing the iPhone's wallpaper, this hacker tool gives no indication that it has invaded an iPhone."

Hackers might install the Privacy-A hacking tool after scanning open wireless Lan networks, in a hotspot or elsewhere, for vulnerable devices that happen to be connected at the time. The tool might also be run by hackers from their iPhones. There's no evidence that such attacks are actually happening, certainly not on a large scale.

Jailbroken iPhones are hacked to allow the installation of software beyond applications that can be download through Apple's App Store. An estimated six to eight per cent of iPhones are jailbroken.

The jailbreaking process can involve installing an SSH (secure shell) remote access service on iPhones. Many users don't bother changing their root passwords from the default after going through this process, a security shortcoming exploited by both the ikee worm and the Privacy-A hacking tool. The latest threat is another reminder that jailbroken iPhone owners need to change passwords to avoid the risk of getting iPwned, or worse. ®

Updated

The initial version of this story implied SSH was installed by default during the jailbreak process. Not so.

"It’s something the user has to select to do either during the jailbreak process or afterwards via Cydia," explained Patrik Runald of Websense Security Labs. "However, by default it’s not installed by any of the jailbreak tools out there today."

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