updated 09:55 am EST, Mon November 9, 2009
Only affects jailbroken devices
The first known iPhone worm has been observed in the wild, reports say. Called Ikee, the worm is considered relatively inoffensive, as it does not steal information or sabotage hardware or software. Instead the package merely changes a phone's wallpaper to a photo of singer Rick Astley before seeking out more points to infect.
The impact of the worm has also been limited to Australia so far, specifically jailbroken phones in the region running SSH while also using an iPhone's default root password. The conditions are similar to those which allowed a Dutch extortion scheme earlier this month; Ikee's author has come forward however, revealing himself as Ashley Towns, an unemployed programmer from Wollogong. "It was supposed to be a small prank I definitely wasn't expecting it to get as far as it did," he comments.
The aim was allegedly to persuade jailbreakers to change their root passwords, thereby making real threats much harder to execute. "A lot of people especially at first thanked me," says Towns. "I think most people are relieved its not out to destroy their phone. I have had a few people abuse me though." The code for the worm has already been published online, which may make it easier to counter.
Apple may use such incidents to support its position on jailbreaking, which it insists is not only a threat to a security but illegal under the DMCA. Critics charge that the locks on iPhone firmware are mainly designed to funnel users to the iTunes Store, where Apple receives royalties for music, movies and applications. Unofficial software markets nevertheless exist for jailbroken iPhones.