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Non-jailbroken iPhones May Not Be Safe from Malware After All

seriot.jpgJailbreaking an iPhone unlocks its full potential, but it can also make it more vulnerable to malware, which can be hidden in apps on unofficial app stores or exploit default root passwords. This fact alone discourages many people from jailbreaking, as they believe an unjailbroken iPhone is impervious to malware. Apple tries to ensure this by forcing apps into a sandboxed environment and by requiring all apps to be approved before they are made publicly available on the App Store.

Nicolas Seriot recently demonstrated in his talk to an iPhone developers community in Geneva that an app can in fact steal users’ e-mail account information, address book entries, keyboard entries, past GPS data and browser history using only official APIs, reports The Register. Seriot demonstrated how this can be done by demoing SpyPhone, an app he created which uses only Apple-approved APIs but, can steal information from a user’s phone.

Apple’s main tool to combat malware is then its rigid approval process which all apps must pass through before they can be downloaded via the App Store. While the process has been criticized for seemingly arbitrary decisions, even resulting in an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission when Apple removed all Google Voice apps from the App Store earlier this year, it can also be used to screen for malware hidden in apps. In his talk, Seriot noted possible ways to get a malicious app approved by Apple, including encrypting the payload and keeping the malware in the app dormant and deploying it at a later time. Nevertheless, Apple is able to weed out most, if not all, malicious programs through its approval process.

Unofficial app stores, such as Cydia, lack the funds to hire staff to approve individually every app and so their response to malware must be mostly in reaction to complaints from users. Nor is it desirable to implement an Apple-like approval process for alternative app stores, as most people jailbreak their phones to get away from the App Store, which blocks many legitimate apps. Those who do jailbreak their phones should be conscious about this risk when they download apps, but in my opinion the pros of jailbreaking definitely outweigh the cons. People that choose to jailbreak their iPhones should also use MobileTerminal to change the default root password as well, as this is used by most malware to gain access to the phone. While a user of a non-jailbroken iPhone need not worry much about malware, a user with a jailbroken iPhone should exercise the same caution as he does when installing programs for his computer.

Seriot has released his slides (PDF) from the talk. SpyPhone is available on github.

[Image by akosmaCC BY-SA 2.0]

Posted in iPhone.

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Motorola Droid Has Been Jailbroken

DROID by Motorola Front Open.JPGThe Motorola Droid has been jailbroken by a user known as Zinx Verituse and has been posted on the AllDroid forum. Like the iPhone jailbreak, this exploit gives users full control of their Droid, allowing them to make changes that were previously prohibited. It is too early to see anyone take advantage of this newfound power, but such apps will likely be released soon.

Links to download the exploit are provided on the AllDroid forum and the instructions are as follows:

1) get (md5sum 3af35446905040a3123ec09195299596)
2) get (this file, md5sum e517995a7d1fe233c61df17c7f7c2a63)
3) append this file to the end of
* Windows: copy /b
* Linux: cat >
The md5sum of will be cf653352967253e99d967498ffd9ce69
4) Copy the to the sdcard on the phone
5) Boot the phone to recovery mode (hold X and power the phone on)
* You’ll get a triangle + exclamation point if done right
6) Apply the update by pressing Volume Up + Camera

While the jailbreaking process is currently quite technical, we will likely see a streamlined process appear in the near future.

Posted in Jailbreak Software.

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