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Windows Phone 7 gets unlocked

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Reducing security risks from open source software

The first jailbreaking app is out for Windows Phone 7, enabling the installation of unsigned applications, which can now be developed in Visual Basic too.

The VB addition is from Microsoft, and means developers can create Silverlight apps using Visual Basic, get them signed and run them on a phone. But developers can also now run all kinds of applications without Microsoft's approval, thanks to the ChevronWP7 unlocking tool.

Registered developers, who've coughed up their $99, can install unsigned applications anyway for testing and development, but the new jailbreaking tool opens that potential to all – with the attendant risks from malware and badly-written software that come when you open Pandora's box.

The balance between freedom and flexibility is a tough one: Apple's iPhone, the most famously-locked-down of the platforms, has no viruses or Trojans to worry about, while we're told that more than a million Chinese Symbian handsets are currently infected with a Trojan that's awaiting instructions.

Android tries to sidestep the problem by providing a tick box to switch off the security mechanisms that prevent rogue applications being installed, but what proportion of users have ticked it we don't know.

Making something completely secure is impossible, and trusting users with their own security has comprehensively failed to work on the desktop, so the best solution seems to be having a jailbreak available – but, crucially, one that is too complicated for the majority of users to bother with. Step two would be to scare people every now and then with talk of malware and developers being left in poverty, just to keep the number of "jailbroken" devices to a minimum.

In that context, ChevronWP7 is expected, and welcomed, just as long as not too many people start using it. ®

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