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August 11th, 2008

iPhone Feature Discovered By Hacker Allows Apple To Remotely Disable Unwanted Apps

According to iPhone hacker Jonathan Zdziarski, Apple has prepared a blacklisting system which allows the company to remotely disable applications on any iPhone device. Apparently, the new 2.x firmware contains a URL which points to a page containing a list of “unauthorized” apps, a move which suggests that the device makes occasional contact with Apple’s servers to see if anything is incorrect on your phone.

Jonathan says that this suggests that the iPhone calls home once in a while to find out what applications it should turn off. At the moment, no apps have been blacklisted, but by all appearances, this has been added to disable applications that the user has already downloaded and paid for, if Apple so chooses to shut them down. It has been discovered this doing a forensic examination of an iPhone 3G. It appears to be tucked away in a configuration file deep inside CoreLocation.

If Apple is indeed monitoring iPhones or plans to remotely scan it for “unauthorized” applications, it indicates a problem deeper than a company who just wants it’s software to be signed and certified. Even on platforms like Symbian, which calls for apps to be signed and traceable, the suggestion that a process of the OS would actively monitor, report on, and possibly deactivate your device’s software is unreasonable, and clearly presents an issue that the company will have to deal with sooner or later.

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