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Iphone virus spreads across Australia

Sophos : 10 November, 2009  (Technical Article)
Australian iPhone users who have tampered with the device to run unapproved applications are being stung by the "ikee" virus which changes the screen-saver to an image of Rick Astley
IT security and data protection company, Sophos has warned iPhone users of the world's first iPhone virus that is spreading in the wild in Australia.

The virus, dubbed the ikee worm, breaks into iPhones, changing their lock screen wallpaper to an image of 1980s pop star Rick Astley with the message: 'ikee is never going to give you up'

However, the virus can only infect users who have 'jailbroken' their iPhones in order to allow them to run applications that have not been approved by Apple.

The worm, which appears so far to be confined to Australia, is capable of breaking into jailbroken iPhones if their owners have not changed the default password ('alpine') after installing SSH. Once in place, the worm attempts to find other iPhones on the mobile phone network that are similarly vulnerable, and installs itself again.

'The first indication that anything is wrong with your iPhone is if you see a picture of Rick Astley,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. 'Fortunately the worm doesn't do anything more malicious than that - it doesn't steal information, access your emails or snoop on your calls. But the source code has been made available on the internet - meaning other hackers could create more dangerous versions of the worm.'

Sophos researchers identified that the worm appears to have been created by a 21 year old Ashley Towns, a student from Wollongong, New South Wales, discovering his Twitter page where he admitted writing the worm.

Towns, who claims that he created the worm out of 'boredom', wrote in the worm's code that he found it 'stupid' that he found 26 out of 27 accessible iPhones he tested were vulnerable, as they had not changed their password from the default.

'The worm's author may be unrepentant about what he has done - but it should be remembered that breaking into someone else's iPhone and changing their data is against the law,' explained Cluley. 'This is a wake-up call to iPhone users around the world to take greater care about their security - especially if they jailbreak their phones. Businesses also need to ensure that they don't have staff who are endangering corporate data by running insecure smartphones. Other inquisitive hackers may also be tempted to experiment, and could take the code of ikee and adapt it to have a more sinister payload.'

A Sophos survey has revealed that 97% of people believe the iPhone will suffer from further virus attacks in the future.
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