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Computers

Rick Astley resurrected in iPhone worm

Rick Astley, the 80s pop legend, made a stunning return to the spotlight recently when an Australian hacker became the first person to write a worm for the iPhone. The worm, however, only affects jailbroken iPhones.

So, this is pretty great. There is a humor factor to all of this, but also a point I want to make. First, the news, though. It has been widely reported in the tech news circuit that an Australian hacker wrote the first worm for an iPhone. Now, before you freak out and curse Apple for not supplying proper security for your device, the worm only affects iPhones that have been jailbroken (and currently only in Australia).

The funny
While there is nothing funny about the implications of what this worm has done, the implementation of it is pretty sweet. The worm infiltrates your jailbroken iPhone via SSH (after searching on the network for iPhones running SSH). The worm gets access because, when you hack an iPhone, you enable SSH and a good number of people do not change the default root password: alpine. Once installed, the worm then changes the user's wallpaper to an amazing photograph of 80s pop icon (I use "icon" loosely here) Rick Astley with a message saying, "ikee is never going to give you up."

Image via Graham Cluley

Now, admit it. You started singing that in your head immediately, didn't you? The other entertaining thing about all this, from a nerd perspective, is that the source code for this worm is littered with comments about how "dumb" consumer "hackers" are (for not changing the root password).

The point
So, there is a bigger issue at stake here and I alluded to it earlier. Implications. Even though the hack is only seen in Australia so far, what this shows is that the iPhone is not invulnerable to security violations--especially when users have altered the software. And that's the key. Users.

Too often people see a device, buy the device, complain about the device, attempt to change the device, then complain when changes to the device end up worse than the original complaints about the device. Does that make sense? The iPhone does not allow certain programs or contain certain features that users believe it should. So they hack it. Then, their hacks get hacked. Then, they say, "iPhones are not secure."

The problem with that is, obviously, it's not how the iPhone was intended to be used. The disclaimer here is that I'm a huge fan of Apple and I used to work for them. So that means I had to field much of the consumer displeasure regarding these types of situations. So yes, there's a little angst left over. But still, if a phone does not do what you want it to do, don't buy it. Or, if you buy it, hack it, and it gets busted, live with the consequences (or at least hack it properly next time).

Similar issues arise with other Mac hardware and software (Apple TV, iPod, Hackintoshs). When you change part of the operating structure of a product and experience issues, your first thought should immediately be that it is because of that change, not because of the inherent flaws of the device (or software) itself. For my money, I stick to the natural upgrade path that Apple provides. Yes, I wish my iPhone was able to do some of the things a jailbroken iPhone can do. But, I will take not being able to do those things (until Apple implements them) over having to look at Rick Astley every time I want to check the weather.


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