iPhone could attract 'traditional' hackers

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iPhone could attract 'traditional' hackers

Hacking for kudos not profit likely once again.

The global media frenzy over Apple's iPhone could encourage the return of hackers motivated more by kudos than profit, security researchers have warned.

Current virus writing is principally aimed at recruiting computers into botnets or installing key-logging software to steal financial information.

But researchers at IBM's X-Force threat analysis service have warned that the buzz around the iPhone could inspire hackers from the early days of the internet who created viruses solely for the kudos of achieving a really big outbreak.

"The biggest threat to iPhone out of the gate will be the amount of buzz and hype around its release," said Neel Mehta, team leader of the advanced research group at X-Force.

"Security researchers will be focusing on the iPhone to find flaws as never before. There may also a portion of the malicious community who are drawn to hacking it just for the kudos."

Mehta added that financial motivations for hacking the iPhone are likely to be low, since it is only expected to corner a tiny proportion of the market.

The rewards would be much greater if malware writers targeted the popular Symbian platform instead.

One possible attack vector could be the Safari internet browser used by the new phone. Safari is a well-known and researched browser, as too is the phone's OS X operating system.

However, Mehta said that there are some factors which mitigate in the iPhone's favour when it comes to resisting malware.

Firstly Apple is not publishing a software development kit for the iPhone, making it much harder to write malicious code that will run on the device.

Secondly the phone should be relatively easy to update, since it has to be connected to a computer regularly to upload files.

This is in contrast to Symbian phones which are not updated regularly by most users as it has to be done wirelessly.

Hackers are already using the hype around the iPhone launch to try and spread malware. An email was spammed out this weekend claiming that the recipient has won an iPhone.

The website with the prize details in fact hosts 10 types of malware that attempt to enter via the browser.

"This is the first in what is bound to be a series of scams involving the iPhone," said Paul Henry, vice president of 'technology evangelism' at Secure Computing.
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