iPhone Virus Can Wipe Out Your Bank Account

With calls and SMS fees, that is

Oh no! Not an iPhone virus! (Photo: www.thehenry.net)

I am an iPhone enthusiast. It’s mightily expensive, but I’m hooked. I haven’t had to take out payday loans or cash advances to finance my habit, but it does occupy a significant portion of my budget each month, particularly since I have the unlimited data plan. If the time ever came that I was taking out loans to help finance my iPhone usage, I know that I would scale things back. But since that doesn’t happen (and I do tend to use my phone for business as well as personal things), I have no plans to change. However, if the iPhone virus ever comes to my phone, I might reconsider.

Yes, an iPhone virus

All of this time, one of the major selling points Apple has used for products that run off their brand of OS is that it is less susceptible to viruses than Windows. While that may be true, I’m sure they aren’t happy to know that an iPhone hacker can shut down or take control of somebody’s iPhone simply by sending an SMS message.

Elinor Mills reports for CNET News that there is a known iPhone SMS hack in which a special kind of SMS message can be sent to do its malicious work. Researchers have even demonstrated publicly how this works, at the Black Hat security conference. There is currently no correction patch to fix the issue. This would be forgivable if this iPhone virus is something Apple just discovered. However, they were notified about this iPhone hack at least six weeks ago, writes Mills.

Blocking VoIP, now this… is this AT&T’s doing too, Apple?

No, this is all Apple. Here’s what an iPhone hacker can do with the iPhone virus. Thanks to a “memory corruption bug” in the way the device works with SMS, an iPhone hacker can make calls, steal information off your phone, send SMS messages or do anything else you can do with your iPhone. Just to show Mills how it works, two iPhone hacking experts staged a demonstration. One called her on the phone while the other sent the iPhone virus bomb. In mid-conversation, the phone went dead. It came back to life after a few seconds, but it was locked. The only way to regain functionality was to reboot the phone, which takes at least a couple of minutes. And this is the most malign way that the iPhone virus can hit. Stealing information, making calls and sending messages can cost you your identity, the identity of anyone in your contacts and a significant amount of money in minutes and messaging charges.

It could bankrupt you if you aren’t careful. Know what your iPhone is doing!

It’s not just the iPhone, either. Windows Mobile devices aren’t immune, and again it’s SMS messages that can exploit those systems. It shuts the phone down. It’s unclear whether Microsoft has closed that hole yet. As for Google’s Android phones, they are also susceptible to SMS attacks. Fortunately for Android users, it only knocks you off the network – it doesn’t take control. However, Google has already patched the vulnerability. They delivered the patch within a couple of days. What are you waiting for, Apple? Want people to jump ship?

How do iPhone hackers do this?

Some rumors exist that this iPhone virus is only effective against iPhones that have been unlocked, which voids your warranty with Apple and is highly discouraged. I haven’t done it and don’t plan to, although I can see where there are advantages to doing so, particularly from the third-party software point of view.

Whether the unlocked rumor is true or not remains to be seen. However, it is known that in order for the iPhone virus attack to work, an iPhone hacker has to send “hundreds” of iPhone SMS hack messages in order to take control of an iPhone. Mills was told by her expert sources that only the first SMS message sent can be seen; the rest stream in “behind the scenes.”

This is worse than ever before

Why? Because before, attacks against an iPhone typically required that you click a link that leads you to a harmful Web site. Thus, with just a little bit of online savvy, users could avoid such traps. This iPhone virus through SMS requires no input on the part of the end user for it to take effect, which is frightening. All the iPhone hacker has to know about you is your phone number.

Apple must take action against this exploit at once. Otherwise attacks will spread exponentially, as phones will be taken over and used as zombies to spread the hack to each entry in a user’s address book. Of course one solution to avoid such difficulty would be not to use an iPhone in the first place, but I know there’d be withdrawal symptoms for quite some time. If Apple’s policies and responsiveness don’t shape up, however, I may be headed for detox. Then I’ll need payday loans and cash advances for that… and I would apply here.

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