Vulnerability in iPhone

NEW YORK: A team of computer security consultants say they have found a flaw in the iPhone that allows them to take control of the device.

The researchers, working for Independent Security Evaluators, a company that tests its clients' computer security by hacking it, said they could take control of iPhones through a WiFi connection or by tricking users into going to a Web site that contains malicious code. The hack, the first reported, allowed them to tap the wealth of personal information the phones can contain.

Although Apple built considerable security measures into its device, said Charles Miller, the principal security analyst for Independent Security Evaluators, "once you did manage to find a hole, you were in complete control."

The firm, based in Baltimore, alerted Apple about the vulnerability this week and recommended a software patch that could solve the problem.

"We're looking into the report submitted by ISE and always welcome feedback on how to improve our security," said Lynn Fox, an Apple spokeswoman.

The company said there was no evidence that this flaw had been exploited or that users had been affected, and it knew of no other exploits of this nature.

Miller, a former employee of the National Security Agency, demonstrated the hack to a reporter by using his iPhone's Web browser to visit a Web site of his own design. Once he was there, the site injected a bit of code into the iPhone that then took over the phone. The phone promptly followed instructions to transmit a set of files to the attacking computer that included recent text messages - including one that had been sent to the reporter's cellphone moments before - as well as telephone contacts and e-mail addresses.

"We can get any file we want," he said. Potentially, he added, the attack could be used to program the phone to make calls, running up large bills or even turning it into a portable bugging device.

Steven Bellovin, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, said, "It's not the end of the world, it's not the end of the iPhone."

"It is a sign that you cannot let down your guard," he said. "It is a sign that we need to build software and systems better."

Details on the vulnerability, but not a step-by-step guide to employing it, can be found at www.exploitingiphone.com.

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