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Apple says its iPhone 3G S is "ready for business", however one leading hacker calls it "useless" for business users, thanks to its woefully poor encryption and security. He says the phones pose a serious threat to companies adopting them. Still, some companies say it's worth the risk.  (Source: The iPhone Blog)
The iPhone yet again experiencing criticism over poor security

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iPhone developer and a hacker who teaches forensics courses on recovering data from iPhones, hasn't been very impressed with the iPhone's security -- or lack thereof.  Mr. Zdziarski has indicated that iPhone OS v3.0 is a bit better when it comes to security, but he says with only a few pieces of readily available freeware you can easily crack it in under two minutes.  That news must be concerning for the corporations and government agencies that support the hundreds of thousands of business iPhones Apple says it has sold.

Mr. Zdziarski says the iPhone's security woes are entirely unnecessary and are the result of incompetence.  He states, "It is kind of like storing all your secret messages right next to the secret decoder ring.  I don’t think any of us [developers] have ever seen encryption implemented so poorly before, which is why it’s hard to describe why it’s such a big threat to security."

His statements stand in stark contrast with Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook's cheerful news that 20 percent of Fortune 100 companies have purchased 10,000 or more iPhones apiece and that multiple government organizations had purchased 25,000 iPhones apiece.  Mr. Cook had bragged, "We’re seeing growing interest with the release of iPhone 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS due in part to the new hardware encryption and improved security policies.  The phone is particularly doing well with small businesses and large organizations."

Mr. Zdziarski says these entities might be in trouble as the encryption on the phone is so poorly implemented a simple software tool makes it as easy to view encrypted files as unencrypted ones.  Thieves could extract live encrypted data from the phone in a mere 2 minutes, and have an entire raw disk image in about 45 minutes.  Interestingly, the iPhone itself helps with these tasks – it begins to decrypt data on its own automatically after the extraction process has started.

Corporate users often edit finance spreadsheets and other corporate documents on their phone, as well as using the phone to make transactions with corporate credit cards.  All of this information is easy pickings for hackers thanks to the phone's woeful security.  Mr. Zdziarski surmises, "If (companies are) relying on Apple’s security, then their application is going to be terribly insecure.  Apple may be technically correct that [the iPhone 3GS] has an encryption piece in it, but it’s entirely useless toward security.  We’re going to have to go with the old imperative of ‘Trust no one'.  And unfortunately part of that is, don’t trust Apple."

Still, some companies say that the risks of deployments are worth it.  States Lance Kidd, chief information officer of Halton Company, an industrial equipment provider, which lets its employees use iPhones, "Your organization has to be culturally ready to accept a certain degree of risk.  I can say we’ve secured everything as tight as a button, but that won’t be true…. Our culture is such that our general manager is saying, ‘I’m willing to take the risk for the value of the applications.’  It’s like business continuity.  You prepare for disasters. You prepare for if there’s an earthquake and the building breaks down, and you prepare for if there’s a crack in [information] security."

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By BrandtTheMan on 7/24/2009 2:10:18 PM , Rating: 5
I would fire Lance Kidd on the spot for that mind set.

RE: Gone...
By inighthawki on 7/24/2009 2:15:55 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed, last i checked, when it comes to things like earthquakes and naturaly disasters, you engineer the building to withstand the force, and the same can be said about the security of an electronics device. This is merely a bad excuse for a lack of security on the iphone. Just like the architecture of a building, the architecture of software can in fact be designed to counter problems like security.

RE: Gone...
By 91TTZ on 7/24/2009 4:06:23 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed, last i checked, when it comes to things like earthquakes and naturaly disasters, you engineer the building to withstand the force, and the same can be said about the security of an electronics device.

This isn't fully true, either. When designing earthquake-proof buildings you design them to withstand a certain level of force. The designers know that it's still possible for a huge earthquake to take down a building that was designed to withstand lesser earthquakes. It wouldn't be economically feasible to build structures so strong that they can withstand rare freak quakes.

You need to accept a certain level of risk. You'd bankrupt yourself trying to plan around everything.

RE: Gone...
By Samus on 7/24/09, Rating: -1
RE: Gone...
By GaryJohnson on 7/24/2009 10:59:41 PM , Rating: 3
Greater levels of earthquake protection can cost exponentially more than lesser levels.

On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily cost more to use a better encryption scheme than a crappy encryption scheme. Maybe they had a ligit reason for doing it the way they did, or maybe they didn't.

RE: Gone...
By elgoliath on 7/26/2009 1:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
And you would be right if the guy who said that is the one making the phones/applications. He's not.

Why fire a guy for being realistic? You can never be 100% secure, so firing guy for saying as much is a bit much.

RE: Gone...
By inighthawki on 7/24/2009 11:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
I do understand this, though i was assuming what i said was going to be taken lightly, as you obviously cannot build something that is completely resistant to any force of nature, much like it's impossible to have a 100% secure device. Even with some of the best designed software, there is still room for the risk of human error, though some of it can be secured via software architecture and security models.

RE: Gone...
By MrPeabody on 7/24/2009 2:20:41 PM , Rating: 5
I would fire Lance Kidd on the spot for that mind set.

I'd steal his phone, find all of his financial information, and then buy a bunch of stuff.

RE: Gone...
By MScrip on 7/24/2009 4:28:16 PM , Rating: 4
Stealing the phone is the biggest risk for any cell phone.

RE: Gone...
By MonkeyPaw on 7/24/2009 7:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe it's a business strategy?

Put a bunch of terrible ideas on your iPhone and "secure" them, then let the phone get stolen and hope your competitors "steal" your ideas and fail miserably. Brilliant!

RE: Gone...
By xdrol on 7/25/2009 3:42:00 PM , Rating: 2
The article is just about that you don't need to steal his phone for that. Just hack into it, find his financial info and buy a bunch of stuff.

RE: Gone...
By foolsgambit11 on 7/27/2009 5:16:21 AM , Rating: 2
The article here didn't specify whether you needed physical access to the phone or you could do it remotely by connecting through Bluetooth, cellular, or WiFi. I would assume, since wireless options weren't mentioned specifically, and probably would have been if they were a possibility, that you need physical access to the phone. Which pretty much means stealing it. Or 'borrowing' it.

RE: Gone...
By Ratinator on 7/24/2009 2:39:13 PM , Rating: 5
Yep......I think he just made a career limiting statement right there.

RE: Gone...
By Keeir on 7/24/09, Rating: 0
RE: Gone...
By bhieb on 7/24/2009 3:35:51 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed it was a little harsh to blame Kidd. IT is a support division, and as such all we can do is inform management of the risk. At the end of the day if the CEO says we're doing it what is he supposed to do? I don't know about the other IT guys out there, but management makes bad decisions against my suggestions all the time.

Your organization has to be culturally ready to accept a certain degree of risk.

That nails it exactly. As this article points out that IF you alow iPhones, your company, by that very act, has culturally accepted the risk.

Our culture is such that our general manager is saying, ‘I’m willing to take the risk for the value of the applications.’

The quote never said he approved that stance just that the GM did. Should he take a stand and say FU I quit, ballsy but I would not recommend it in this IT employment environment.

RE: Gone...
By bodar on 7/24/2009 4:08:40 PM , Rating: 2
This. IT security is always a balance -- risk vs value, security vs usability. You give your educated opinion on which risks are worthwhile, but at the end of the day, you don't really decide anything.

RE: Gone...
By bighairycamel on 7/24/2009 5:26:44 PM , Rating: 1
Wait wait wait... fire a person who doesn't think its worthwhile to spend the whole company budget defending information?
He couldn't if he wanted; the company budget has already been exausted buying 10,000 shoddy iPhones.

RE: Gone...
By 3minence on 7/24/2009 3:19:02 PM , Rating: 4
Is your company connected to the internet? Do employees have access to critical data? Then your taking a risk with your data. Perfect security is implemented with wire cutters, everything else is just a level of compromise.

Some companies allow PDA's to sync with corporate email, others do not. It's all a matter of what the management is comfortable allowing. Obviously they believe allowing iPhones to be worth the risk.

RE: Gone...
By 2bdetermine on 7/24/2009 6:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, I would fire whoever hired him as a chief information officer.

RE: Gone...
By cnar77 on 7/25/2009 2:57:43 AM , Rating: 2
Well you can't exactly blame him for his ignorance. He's a CIO not a CISO, CSO or ISO. The "S" indicates Security and he's simply an information officer. His organization may be behind the times especially when the GM has the authority to make the call on what mobile device they're willing to risk the companies assets over. Once again form over function.

RE: Gone...
By sgtdisturbed47 on 7/25/2009 3:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
iPhone is bad for business users? Well yeah, that's automatic. After all, it's not a Blackberry.

RE: Gone...
By robinthakur on 7/27/2009 7:15:51 AM , Rating: 2
Its hard to say no when an Investment Banker is screaming down the phone at you demanding an iPhone or has chucked a laser printer at somebody... They basically get what they want which means that they currently want Macbooks Pros, Airs and iPhones like all their friends have got. Would you like to be the poor soul explaining in a Professor Frink voice "You can't have an iPhone because its not 100% secure because the encryption etc...blah blah blah." They would so get kicked out of the nearest door/window.

RE: Gone...
By AstroCreep on 7/25/2009 9:56:09 AM , Rating: 3
While his statement was poorly conceived, I understand what he's saying; "Nothing is completely secure". Remember about how SSL was "Broken" earlier this year?
Unlikely? Maybe. Possible? Yes.
Here's a couple of links

What it all boils down to is if you give someone enough time and the proper resources, anything can be cracked.
It doesn't mean I'm not going to try my damnedest to keep you out of my network though. ;)

RE: Gone...
By murphyslabrat on 7/25/2009 12:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
The issue in question is not about "it can be cracked", as that is assumed. The problem is the speed with which it can be cracked. Two minutes would let you pull some stunt, stealing a phone for less than five minutes, meaning the person would have no idea it was stolen.

RE: Gone...
By wvh on 7/25/2009 11:45:25 AM , Rating: 2
"It's insecure, it's relatively untested, it's probably not even the best tool for the job, but it's shiny and new and I WANT it! WANT it!"

-- The mindset of about any manager I've met while doing security contracting.

People are too hedonistic – security is too stoic an art form for the average human being. One would hope a manager who has to take important decisions would base them on rational thought, but alas...

RE: Gone...
By Helbore on 7/27/2009 6:42:16 AM , Rating: 2
If you're good at your job, you get on and do it. If you're not, you become a manager.

RE: Gone...
By tmouse on 7/27/2009 8:18:31 AM , Rating: 3
Actually you fire him for shooting his mouth off, the smart one's declined to comment. Unless it's your product its generally wiser to keep silent when asked your company has spent a lot on an insecure device care to comment?

RE: Gone...
By callmeroy on 7/27/2009 8:39:57 AM , Rating: 2
As later posts in the thread point out I think firing him on that alone is a bit over the top, especially considering it appears its the GM, not the CIO who really has the decision making authority in that particular organization.

Plus I can sympathize with that CIO -- I worked, for nearly 10 years, in IT for a small 150 user business where even though I was for several years the only trained IT employee in the business or knew anything about security at all - I was over-ruled many times by the CEO, the VP or the Finance guy. It my situation it was almost always over the issue of spending vs. not spending. One case was I was over - ruled on the fact the company was using MS Office, of which they were sharing about 30 copies of it and only had 1 license. Company felt it was "silly" to pay money for software they "already bought". They got dinged on that, a disgruntled employee reported them to the BSA - they paid a tens of thousands in fines.

Sometimes you just have no say in what your company does even if you are the subject matter expert on the staff. Its either that or you are in the unemployment line.

RE: Gone...
By MrPoletski on 7/27/2009 10:51:49 AM , Rating: 1
a) would you want to work for a company like that?
b) will a company with an attitude like that survive in the long term?
c) what the hell is wrong with openoffice anwyays?

no, no, nothing.

RE: Gone...
By callmeroy on 7/27/2009 12:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
Like most things people write or say -- talking about something is one thing, reality is another.

a) I *did* work for a company like that through most of my 20's actually. Money is money -- when the job market is tough and you have bills to pay its amazing what we'll put up with.

b) I agree with you -- but they did very well while I was there, don't know how they are doing today -- its been 5 years since I left there. I do know they were scamming some of thier customers by marking up services exponentially so I hope that catches up with them. (ie. a job would cost $2500 bucks , to some clients that job would be billed at $3500 - 4500 bucks, other clients same scope and service -- they'd charge $10,000 - $12,000 for that same $2500 job).

c) Well I'm not gonna delve into that -- I use open office at home because I'm dabbling in some fictional novel writing here and there, however for the work place I think valid arguments could be made that Office is better for a business environment. To be honest I'd BUY office rather than use OpenOffice if MS didn't price it so insanely high.

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