And it is not just the antenna…

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The new iPhone 4.0 is a piece of art, a handheld device which Andrew Berg of Wireless Week elegantly termed as ‘beautifuly flawed‘.  Surprisingly, another report that went out un-noticed by mainstream media, unless you are in the Security business, rated Apple as the company with the most security vulnerabilities in its software, surpassing Oracle and even Microsoft in the last 5 years.  This is shown by the now highly quoted, yet highly disputed, graph:

Secunia - Reported Security Vulnerabilities by Vendor, 2005 - 2010.

Secunia - Reported Security Vulnerabilities by Vendor, 2005 - 2010.

But it is not just the iPhone or Apple platforms that are going to see a surge in malware attacks due to these documented vulnerabilities.  Kaspersky made this critical prediction in December 2009:

An increase in attacks on iPhone and Android mobile platforms. 2010 promises to be a difficult time for iPhone and Android users. The first malicious programs for these mobile platforms appeared in 2009, a sure sign that they have aroused the interest of cybercriminals. The only iPhone users currently at risk are those with compromised devices; however the same is not true for Android users who are all vulnerable to attack. The increasing popularity of mobile phones running the Android OS combined with a lack of effective checks to ensure third-party software applications are secure, will lead to a number of high-profile malware outbreaks.

There are three reasons why this prediction will hold and mobile devices are the next target for malicious attacks.  First, newer, more accessible platforms and applications – and the vulnerabilities highlighted above – will open the doors to malicious attacks on and from mobile devices. And second, many of us are using our iPhones and Android Smartphones in the same way we use our PCs.  We shop, surf the web, email, text, Twitter, Facebook and download on our phones.  Thirdly, our phones house so much of our personal information – contacts, calendars, emails, texts, pictures and more – making them a valuable target for malware writers and malicious hackers. 

So if you are the Chief Security Officer for your Enterprise or Service Provider, mobile devices are at your network’s perimeter and you will need to consider “edge” security solutions  (which are typically transparent inline network traffic scanning solutions) – solutions that will protect your end-users’ mobile devices from malware attacks, and in so doing protecting your network infrastructure from attacks launched from compromised mobile devices.  

You heard it here first – it is not just the antenna.

About Wedge Chief Scientist

Husam Kinawi, Chief Scientist Dr. Kinawi has a PhD and MSc in Computer Science from the Universities of Calgary, Canada and London, UK. In 1997, he co-founded Mpower Technologies Inc., a wireless telecommunications software company. In 1999, Dr. Kinawi co-founded (NASDAQ: AIQT), a Boston-based e-Business applications firm. Dr. Kinawi has over seventeen years of research and development experience working with industry leaders such as Newbridge (Alcatel), Siemens, United Technologies, and Apple in the areas of distributed information systems, embedded applications and wireless Internet solutions. Dr. Kinawi has also spoken at several major conferences, published several research papers, and is the holder of several patents in the area of mobile and wireless devices.
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11 Responses to And it is not just the antenna…

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  2. This security vulnerability becomes more evident with the ability to Jailbreak your iPhone by simply visiting the website Without even requiring a separate computer, iPhone users are now able to browse to the website with their built-in Safari browsers on their phone, swipe across the screen and an embedded program on the website will download itself to the phone and jailbreak it within minutes (granted as long as the website doesn’t go down because of the vast numbers of people visiting it).

    Even if the website were to go down, the alternate method of jailbreaking your iPhone would be to e-mail to your phone a specific pdf file (different pdf files have been customized to take into account whether your iPhone is a 3G, 3GS or 4 flavour running OS 3.1.2 to 4.0.1 – this works for the iPad and iPod Touch too by the way) and then open up the pdf file in the e-mail. This method uses a pdf exploit to download and render the pdf file, injecting the jailbreak payload; essentially going into the phone and allowing the hack to take place.

    And here comes a major dilemma… for those that are security conscious, do you willingly allow this program to hack into your iPhone, potentially making your valuable information readily accessible to hackers/malware writers, just so that you have access to the functionalities that come with having a jailbroken phone? It seems that millions of iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users are willing to go through this process… but at what security cost? And how about ‘fake’ jailbreaking applications? The point remains – there is a need to be browsing through some gateway that has the ability to do a deep content inspection.

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