Note to iPhone worm author: Don’t do us any more favors

AstleyWorms and other types of malware aren’t just infecting our desktops and notebooks, now they are infecting our mobile devices and smartphones. It was inevitable of course, and users of the mobile devices need to take the same precautions that they do with their PCs. Just last week, it was discovered that the first iPhone worm was released. The worm changes the lock-mode wallpaper.

Not all iPhones are vulnerable though, only those that have been “jailbroken” to allow third-party apps to run. The vulnerability comes in when a phone is jailbroken, but the user doesn’t change the default SSH login password which is put in place by the jailbreaking software. The worm, known as “ikee”, isn’t particularly malicious, it just changes the wallpaper to a picture of Rick Astley, an ’80s pop music star; and then propagates itself to other iPhones.

The fact that this one isn’t malicious is not reassuring, it merely portends a greater influx of malware to mobile devices in the future—and the ones that come after this will without a doubt be of a more sinister nature.

I saw a surprising poll that said 75 percent of respondents thought that the youthful author of the worm “did iPhone users a favour” by raising awareness of a security problem, and the buzz around the blogosphere seems to be sympathetic towards the Aussie hacker, who goes by the name of “Ikee”.  Ikee has identified himself as Ashley Towns and has openly taken credit for the worm, and seems to be working under the mistaken belief that there’s nothing wrong with creating and releasing a worm into the wild if the purpose of it is, as he said in an ABC News interview, “It’s just poking fun and hoping waking people up a little.” The perpetrator is unapologetic, and has been speaking to media and others via Twitter. But I see no justification for propagating a worm, even if the intended purpose isn’t immediately malicious.

Really? When it comes down to it, there’s no such thing as a good virus. Although it may seem harmless to Ikee, the genie’s out of the bottle now, and there will be copycats who don’t just want to “poke fun,” they want to steal. Regardless of intent, he broke the law. Yes, maybe he was trying to “teach us a lesson” about how to treat our iPhones, but is that a legitimate role for him to be playing? Sounds like vigilantism to me. And it’s not completely harmless, as the infected iPhone seeks out other iPhones to send the worm to, the data allowance will be eaten up and the victim may suffer from a larger invoice for data services.


Written by Dan Blacharski

The corporate world unceremoniously booted Dan Blacharski out of his cubicle over 15 years ago, and he’s never looked back. Since that time, he has been a full-time professional freelance writer, public relations consultant and analyst, and has published six books and thousands of articles. He divides his time between South Bend, Indiana and Bangkok, and married the renowned Thai writer Charoenkwan Prakthong in 2005. He and his wife enjoy traveling the world, and spending time with their Boston Terrier, Pladook.

1 Comment

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