The Worm in the Apple

By Jim McVeagh 22/10/2010


Readers of MacDoctor will know that I always find virus scares on Macs vastly amusing. While there have been the odd trojan and plenty of those nasty phishing scams, there has never been a virus reported in the wild on Mac OSX. It is not surprising that I viewed the following headline with great skepticism:

iPhone is a huge security risk, warns crime expert

Still, the iPhone may well be more risky than a full-blown Mac, simply because of its portability. However the “expert”, John Lawler, head of the Australian Crime Commission,  does not talk about the very real danger of people not password-protecting their phones, rendering their data easily accessible if the phone is stolen. This is, of course, not a problem solely of iPhones, but of all smart-phones with large amounts of personal data. Nor does he talk about the fact that large amounts of data can be stored on the iPhone, making it useful for industrial espionage.

No. Mr. Lawler rambles on about cloud computing, and how hard it is for the police to access the data, and then cites a motley collection of examples of naughty behaviours involving iPhones. They are:

  1. An imitation iPhone racket in Italy. This is merely an example of a rip off. How this is a security risk escapes me.
  2. A sophisticated siphoning scam worth 4.5 million pounds (NZ$9.47) linked to devices in London. This was a phishing scam. If you are silly enough to give your banking details to friendly Nigerian and Spanish lawyers, you deserve the nasty shock in your bank account the next month. Again, this is not a security risk, merely a con.
  3. A student breached iPhone security last November with a worm which spread from phone to phone along wireless networks. Of course, Mr Lawler fails to mention that every single one of those iPhones had been hacked by their owners to unlock the phone. Apple locks those phones for a very good reason. This is it.
  4. Fraudsters were increasingly targeting social networking sites for identity theft. Nothing to do with iPhones then?

Once more we have a slanted article trying to make out that Apple technology is this huge security disaster waiting to happen. And yet the iPhone is no more of a security risk than a Blackberry or one of Microsoft’s glitzy new offerings. The Mac computer itself is considerably more secure than all except the most arcane linux systems. The best that Lawler can do is cite examples that are nothing to do with the iPhone I have in my pocket – one that is real, locked and not run by a moron.

Just like the vast majority of (secure) iPhones.

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