Friday, 27 November 2009 02:28

Ikee iPhone worm creator lands app development job

The creator of the first iPhone worm has been hired by an iPhone development company.

The Ikee worm appeared earlier this month, changing the lock background image of infected iPhones to a photo of eighties singer Rick Astley.

It spread from one iPhone to another across the mobile phone network.

The worm relied SSH having been installed on jailbroken iPhones, and the user failing to change the default root password. Unmodified iPhones were therefore not at risk.

Ikee was widely reported as being the work of NSW man Ashley Towns after some online detective work by Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Towns subsequently gave interviews to various media outlets.

A couple of weeks later,the Ikee-based Duh showed up with malicious intent, recruiting the iPhones it infected into a botnet and diverting certain online banking traffic to a fake site. Duh apparently originated in the Netherlands.

Now Towns has reportedly been hired by an Australian iPhone app development company. Please read on.

Now there are widespread reports that Towns has been hired as an iPhone application developer by mogeneration.

mogeneration, which claims to be "Australia's leading iPhone development company" has a client list that includes News Corp.

Cluley was clearly unimpressed by the news: "it jars with me that Towns has shown no regret for what he did, and that now his utterly irresponsible behaviour appears to have been rewarded. Will Towns be offering a token $5 compensation to all those he infected for the inconvenience he caused? I doubt it.

"There are plenty of young coders out there who would not have acted so stupidly, are just as worthy of an opportunity inside a software development company, and are actually quite likely to be better coders than Towns who made a series of blunders with his code."

At the time Ikee was spreading, mogeneration officials said jailbreaking "removes a level of safety that Apple imposed in order to make the iPhone reliable - most of all to ensure that an application does not disrupt the primary function of the iPhone - to make voice calls. It's akin to taking the lock off the front door or disabling your cars [sic] airbag, you can do without them but they were there for a reason."

mogeneration estimated that between 2 and 3% of Australian iPhones (or up to 25,000) have been jailbroken, based on information from the analytics built into the company's apps.

How many were actually affected by Ikee? No one knows for sure. Towns said his iPhone infected around 100, but any estimate of how far it spread from there would be little more than an educated guess.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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