Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Secret tool of iPhone

On 6th August, the site iPhone Atlas wrote:

iphone can phone home and kill apps?

Apple has apparently included a blacklisting mechanism in iPhone OS 2.x via
which the device can phone home, check for unauthorized applications, and
disable them. The OS includes a URL that points to a page containing a list
of unauthorized applications, specifically:

Jonathan Zdziarski said:
"This suggests that the iPhone calls home once in a while to find out what
applications it should turn off. At the moment, no apps have been
blacklisted, but by all appearances, this has been added to disable
applications that the user has already downloaded and paid for, if Apple so
chooses to shut them down. "I discovered this doing a forensic examination
of an iPhone 3G. It appears to be tucked away in a configuration file deep
inside CoreLocation."

That post was like opening Pandora's box: all conspiracy theorists were
happy, they had found a trendy scapegoat. The next day Zdziarski wrote in his
own blog:

So I post one little comment to a geek blog site about an "unauthorized
apps" list downloaded by the iPhone, and every wanna-be-watergate journalist
in the northern hemisphere emails me with conspiracy theories.

It's worth reading the whole page because he explains how it is possible to disable this infamous
functionality entirely.

On 11th August Steve Jobs (chairman and CEO of Apple) gave an interview to WSJ saying:

Apple raised hackles in computer-privacy and security circles when an independent engineer discovered code inside the iPhone that suggested iPhones routinely check an Apple Web site that could, in theory trigger the removal of the undesirable software from the devices.

Mr. Jobs confirmed such a capability exists, but argued that Apple needs it
in case it inadvertently allows a malicious program -- one that stole users'
personal data, for example -- to be distributed to iPhones through the App
Store. "Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be
irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull," he says.

Hopefully, mr Jobs, we would never like to buy something that has secret
levers! How many other levers are built in iphone? Hopefully, are you going
to tell us or do we have to wait for the next geek?
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