“ikee” iPhone Worm Progeny Not So Harmless

iphone-malwareEarlier this week, we reported that the first iPhone worm had been created. It was called “ikee,” and all it did was change the default wallpaper on devices to an image of Rick Astley with “ikee is never going to give you up” printed across the top. It was relatively harmless, if annoying, and the hacker responsible claimed that it was more of a warning than anything else.

Hopefully many heeded that warning, since now a new virus has surfaced that uses the same M.O. as ikee, but that has a much more malicious intent and effect. Specifically, the new malware mines personal data from your device, using the very same exploit ikee revealed earlier in the week.

The new worm, dubbed “iPhone/Privacy.A” by digital security firm Intego, affects only jailbroken iPhones, and grabs things from your device like address book contacts, text messages, photos, music, video, calendar entries and email messages. Basically, almost anywhere it can look for sensitive data, it will. The virus doesn’t seem to be able to access information stored by other applications on your iPhone, like password managers, but if you’re affected, the only safe course of action is a full wipe and restore.

Theoretically, according to iPhone security researcher Charlie Miller speaking to Computerworld, attacks based on the same exploit could do more than just mine data. Running up your phone bill, sending out bulk text messages and spamming your contacts are all well within the realm of possibility. Miller goes on to describe how easy it would be for a hacker to infect a device:

This could easily be installed on a computer on display in a retail store, which could then scan all iPhones that pass within the reach of its network. Or a hacker could sit in an Internet café and let his computer scan all iPhones that come within the range of the Wi-Fi network in search of data.

In order to secure your device against this kind of attack, there are a few options. First, change the default SSH password if you haven’t already. So far, that appears to be the easiest way to foil attempts to infiltrate your jailbroken device. The best way to prevent this and any kind of future attack along the same lines, however, is to not jailbreak your device in the first place, or to restore it to factory settings if you’ve already jailbroken. Of course, for many who use their devices with carriers who don’t officially offer the iPhone, that isn’t an option.

Miller suggested that Apple may want to consider re-engineering its security measures to account for jailbroken devices, but as that would mean tacitly acknowledging and even accepting a practice it stridently disapproves of, I think the best bet for jailbreakers is just to shut down all SSH access, if possible.

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